The latest HP circus

Monday 26 September 2011This is exactly 12 years old. Be careful.

Last week, Hewlett-Packard did what it seems to do best: thrash in public, fire a CEO, and hire a new one who likely won’t work out. The news stories are full of hemming and hawing from the board, and statements about how Meg Whitman is “ideally suited” to “execute on the vision,” or some other business gobbledy-gook. Somehow, no one has managed to say what that vision is, other than, “Be huge and make a lot of money.”

Leo Apotheker had only 11 months on the job, and when he was hired, was proclaimed as “ideally suited,” or “uniquely qualified,” or some other synonym for what they’ve just said about Whitman. I can’t follow all the boardroom machinations, but I know that this isn’t leadership.

Meg Whitman seems to be a strong personality, but has never run a technology company, and eBay doesn’t count: it was a huge consumer of technology, but never shipped products to enterprise customers. If she’s a good choice, does that mean that any generic CEO can run HP? Has it really become the modern equivalent of Acme Consolidated?

The whole thing is depressing. As a brand, Hewlett-Packard should mean something beyond, “what’s the most profitable business this year?”

And by the way, HP’s stock price last week is a perfect illustration of the old Wall St quip, “up on rumor, down on news”. Wednesday brought the rumor that Apotheker is out, and Whitman is in, the stock soars 10%, closing up 7%. Friday morning, the news is out, exactly what the rumor had predicted, and the stock falls 5% closing down 2%:

Hewlett-Packard stock last week!

No matter where I look in this story, no one has any idea what they are doing.


Most companies over 500 employees appear to bizarrely stupid. I have always attributed this to my own inability to see "the big picture" (or some other Dilbertian phrase). More and more, it appears to be just Occam's Razor.
The implied vote of no confidence in the heads of several HP divisions that are of their own right larger than anything Leo ran, and much larger than anything Whitman ran, is appalling.

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