Who Will Become HP’s New CEO?

HP is keeping tight-lipped about the choice of its new CEO, but the decision is likely to come sooner rather than later, says Chris Preimesberger

It’s been nearly eight weeks since 6 August, when Hewlett-Packard announced that CEO Mark Hurd was vacating the job he’d held since March 2005. Since then, under interim CEO Cathie Lesjak, the company has forged right ahead as if nothing has changed – including deciding to spend a non-trivial $2.35 billion to buy utility storage maker 3PAR, after a bidding war with Dell that many industry observers deemed “crazy.”

There was some speculation that an analysts’ day meeting in Palo Alto on 28 September, with several members of the board of directors in attendance, might conclude with HP announcing its new CEO. However, no announcement has yet been made.

Plenty of candidates

Naturally, there are various schools of thought on who that new person or persons might be. Thoughts being ventured include the possibility of co-CEOs, like Twitter and RIM have done successfully, for example. HP is too large of a company for one person to handle, it’s said. Maybe, maybe not.

Some say it should be a current HP exec who knows the company from the inside out, someone like 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).

Any one of them would be excellent, in our opinion. Andreessen perhaps has the biggest name of that group, and that counts for a lot when it comes to a company like HP.

Others say it should be an outsider – like Hurd, who came from NCR – to bring a fresh perspective. The latest rumour on this score: COO Tim Cook of Apple.

The Apple effect?

It is just a rumour, and there undoubtedly will be others, but this one is interesting for a lot of reasons. The main one is that Cook is part of a team that knows how to be very creative, build and service excellent products and find a loyal buying audience on a global scale. What company wouldn’t want to have a CEO with that on his/her resume?

Yes, it’s 95 percent consumer-oriented, but Apple has plans to move deeper into the enterprise, and Cook is the guy leading that strategy, we’re told. A move to a company like HP would be a natural for Cook.

A later report insists that Cook is staying at Apple. May well be true. If nothing else, it’s great PR for Cook and Apple.

Hmmm. If not Cook, how about former Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz? He certainly knows enterprise hardware and software, he’s young, and he’s still looking for the right job. Nah, you say? Stranger things have happened.

We’ll see what happens, and perhaps sooner rather than later. HP shareholders are getting antsy.