Walter Hewletts Last Day as Director

By eweek  |  Posted 2002-04-26

Hewlett-Packard Co. on Friday will remove outspoken critic Walter Hewlett from the companys board of directors today at its annual shareholder meeting, marking the first time in HPs 64 years that a relative of the companys co-founders have not served on the board.

Fridays shareholder meeting caps a blistering week that saw Hewlett put HPs top executives on trial, a move that led the board not to renominate him to the seat he has held since 1987.

The gathering in Cupertino, Calif., will be a dull affair compared to the courtroom drama across the country in which HP Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina was forced to take the stand to denounced allegations made by Hewlett that she misled investors and strong-armed business partners to win a bitter proxy fight over the $19 billion buyout of Compaq Computer Corp.

While the judge who oversaw the trial in the Delaware Chancery Court has yet to rule on Hewletts suit, legal observers widely expect HP to emerge victorious, if not unscathed, enabling the company to complete the merger by its target date of May 7.

Hewletts seven-month battle against the buyout, which at times degenerated into an exchange of personal attacks, has undoubtedly scarred the companys reputation and could make its already challenging acquisition of Houston-based Compaq even more difficult.

At Fridays meeting, held at a convention center a few miles from the companys Palo Alto, Calif., headquarter, stockowners will vote to re-elect eight board members to one-year terms. Hewlett, son of late company co-founder William Hewlett, was dropped from the list of nominees after he filed suit against the company March 28.

The families of co-founders William Hewlett and David Packard, which publicly opposed the buyout, may not accept Walter Hewletts ouster quietly, insiders say.

The Hewletts and Packards still control about 18 percent of HPs stock, giving them potential leverage to seek representation on the companys board.

While an HP spokeswoman said the families cannot lobby to elect a representative until next year, some insiders expect the heirs will seek to have a representative appointed following the buyout of Compaq, when HPs board will be expanded to include Compaq representatives.

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