HP Axes Apotheker And Appoints Meg Whitman As CEO

Hewlett-Packard has fired CEO Léo Apotheker, the man it had selected to lead the company into the 21st century, after 11 months on the job.

HP’s embattled board of directors immediately installed one of its newest members, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman to replace Apotheker on a permanent basis. It had been widely speculated that whoever replaced him would do so in an interim role.

Lack Of Leadership

HP, the world’s largest IT company by sales volume, whose rock-solid administrative reputation for 60 years has turned simply rocky in the last decade, is shifting away from the personal computing sector to focus on the more profitable enterprise software and services markets. Apotheker (pictured) who came to HP from German enterprise software maker SAP with great fanfare in September 2010, turned out not to be the person to lead the way.

Apotheker was fired because of “his poor execution and a lack of leadership,” a source told The Wall Street Journal.

Former Oracle President and current venture capitalistRay Lanehas moved from non-executive chairman to executive chairman of HP’s board of directors, and the board intends to appoint a lead independent director promptly, HP said. With the exit of Apotheker, the HP board now has 13 members.

Whitman joined the board in January 2011 with four other new directors after losing the previous November to former Governor Jerry Brown as the Republican candidate for governor of California. She becomes the second female CEO of the company. Carly Fiorina, who ran unsuccessfully on the Republican ticket for the US Senate seat held by incumbent California Democrat Barbara Boxer, served as HP’s CEO from 1999 to 2005.

The news came two days after HP announced that is starting layoffs of as many as 500 workers in its webOS division, after stating a month ago that it was shutting down that operation. However, a source at the company told eWEEK that the pink slips are now being withheld until “further notice.”

The HP board also is reconsidering its 18 August announcement that it will spin off or shutter the company’s market-leading PC business, sources with knowledge of the company told eWEEK.

Ups And Downs In Short Tenure

Apotheker (pronounced Appo-tecker) had seen great ups and downs during his brief time at HP. On his watch in February 2010, HP launched its first tablet PC (the TouchPad) and two smartphones (the Pre3 and Veer), all of which run on the webOS system HP inherited when it acquired Palm Computing for $1.2 billion (£779m) in 2010.

At that time, Apotheker announced that HP had decided to propagate the webOS to every computer it makes – laptops, desktops, servers, storage arrays and printers – and that the webOS would run “alongside” Windows, Linux and other operating systems. But it was never made clear exactly what that potential OS handshake would do to improve the devices.

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Chris Preimesberger

Editor of eWEEK and repository of knowledge on storage, amongst other things

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