HP Drops No Hints About Its Search for New CEO

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-09-28
 
 
 

Hewlett-Packard executives dropped nary a hint Sept. 28 at its annual securities analyst meeting in Palo Alto, Calif.,  about the progress of its search committee in finding a new chief executive officer to replace Mark Hurd, who was forced to resign under a cloud Aug. 6.

The search committee has been working for seven and a half weeks on finding the right leader or leaders for what arguably is the world's largest IT company. But there's been no news on the committee's progress.

Interim CEO Cathie Lesjak, a member of the company's board of directors, fielded only one question from the audience of financial analysts on the subject. Here was the conversation:

Mark Moskowitz of J.P. Morgan: "I want to get a sense of the new CEO's ability to put their stamp on the business, given today's commentary. It does seem that with the new fiscal 2011 operating targets, which are moving higher relative to consensus versus appreciated, and also your pretty focused discussion around capital allocations, that there's not that much left for a new CEO. Should we take this or reconcile this as 'external candidates need not apply,' since there's more of an internal focus going forward?"

Lesjak: "I don't think you should take anything away for whether it's an internal candidate or external candidate that we will ultimately settle on. The search committee has been clear with me that we have good candidates-we've got good internal ones and we've got good external ones. I wouldn't interpret anything from this related to that.

"I think the way you should interpret this is, once again: We plan conservatively. Whether you agree with the way the outlook looks or not, we believe it's a conservative plan and that we're going to execute really strongly. Lots of different market trends are moving in our favor from a margin accretion perspective. We've also got in the pipeline a number of cost efficiencies, and that gives us the confidence in the guidance that we've provided.

"I think there's room in there for the new CEO to place their mark on the business as well."

So, no word on any progress came out of the Sept. 28 meeting.

Hurd quickly moved on

Hurd resigned Aug. 6 in the face of sexual harassment issues relating to his relationship with a former contractor hired by the Office of the CEO under Hurd's reign. HP also said that some "fuzzy"-and possibly fraudulent-math in some expense reports may have been used to cover up Hurd's relationship with a former actress hired by HP to work at corporate events.

However, Hurd wasted no time in getting back into the working world, joining Oracle as co-president on Sept. 6. Hurd and Oracle CEO and co-founder Larry Ellison are longtime friends.

Some industry observers believe the new corporate leader should be a current HP exec who knows the company from the inside out, such as Todd Bradley (executive vice president of HP's $28 billion Personal Systems Group), Ann Livermore (executive vice president of the $5 billion Enterprise Business unit), David Donatelli (EVP and GM for Servers, Storage and Networking) or Marc Andreessen (entrepreneur, HP board member since 2009 and creator of Moziac, the first graphical Web browser).

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