The Station Takes Hard Look at HP CEO Candidates
And so, almost two months in, the Hewlett-Packard"Search for a CEO" show meanders on.
The venerable legacy company of David Packard and William Hewlettdid its annual all-day meeting with securities analysts on Sept. 28 but barely mentioned the fact that there is no real CEO at the controls.
Um, that's a rather large rhino in the room they chose not to address. Yet, the company has spent multiple billions buying a few companies since Mark Hurd slithered out the door Aug. 6, eventually moving to Oracle30 days later. If those deals go sour, there will be nobody to blame for them but the entire board of directors itself.
The latest on the topic is this: Fox News reported Sept. 30 that HP made "overtures" to two senior executives from rival IBMin its search but apparently was turned down by both people.
HP reportedly tried to lure Big Blue software and systems division head Steve Mills, a longtime respected industry thought leader, and sales, marketing and strategy exec Virginia Rometty. Mills isn't a surprise; Rometty is a surprise, even though she has been ranked by Fortune as one of the most powerful businesswomen in America.
That figures. Anybody able to climb the ladder that high at IBM will be eligible for that list. Ever looked at how many women have high-ranking positions in Armonk?
In any case, the HP search committee is probably working its tail off trying to find the right crop of candidates, but it's getting harder and harder to do that. Following a good businessman like Hurd would be hard enough on its own, but being the CEO of such a huge corporation is almost a totally thankless job, sort of like being the governor of California or president of the United States; you're never going to satisfy everybody-- or even a majority of people -- in a job like that.
On that score, The Stationhas been watching some of the internal candidates at conferences (like the analysts' meeting mentioned above) and observing their communication styles -- so very important in repping the company 24/7. Here are some candid observations:
Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's $28 billion Personal Systems Group: Fits the HP image -- very corporate-looking and -sounding. Runs a huge part of the business very successfully. Medium-strong voice (deep voices good, high voices not good). Good haircut. A bit stiff but with commanding podium presence. One of Hurd's first hires in 2005, which could be good or bad for him. Probably the internal inside-track guy.
Ann Livermore, EVP of HP's $5 billion Enterprise Business unit: 30-year HP veteran who's been passed over for the job twice before. Smart as a whip. Speaks with a slight Southern accent. Good podium presence. Needs a new haircut. Probably best suited as an assistant coach, rather than the head coach.
David Donatelli, EVP and GM for Servers, Storage and Networking: Just outbid Dell to buy 3PAR for $2.35 billion, so he's got a grand-slam homer on his recent record. Good podium presence. Medium-strong voice, like Bradley's. Less hair than either Bradley or Livermore, but not Andreessen. Came from EMC, so knows how to play hardball. Only been with HP since early 2009, so not as wedded to the past as the others, which is probably a plus. Dark horse now but possible CEO material next time.
Marc Andreessen, entrepreneur, HP board member since 2009 and creator of Moziac, the first graphical Web browser: Brilliant all the way around. Respected the world over for creativity and world-changing IT accomplishments. Rich beyond belief. Married to daughter of gazillionaire Silicon Valley building contractor John Arriaga. Gave $27 million to Stanford hospital to build a new emergency unit after he went there and found it was overcrowded and underserving patients. Doesn't need this job at all, but would be the best internal candidate by far. No hair, so doesn't need a new haircut.
So, to paraphrase former eBay CEO and current candidate for California governor (we refuse to use the stupid term "gubernatorial") Meg Whitman: That's The Station's stand. What's yours?