Was Apotheker HP’s First Choice of CEO? [Updated]
Hewlett-Packard’s decision to appoint former SAP (SAP) chief Léo Apotheker as CEO was a move few industry observers saw coming. “It’s a bit of a head-scratcher,” one veteran software executive told me, noting that an enterprise guy like Apotheker wasn’t an obvious choice to head HP, a company whose strengths lie in hardware and consumer technology: “It’s not just that he’s not from inside HP, he’s not from inside the country.”
If you didn’t foresee Apotheker’s appointment–and it seems few, if any, did–you can be forgiven your surprise, because the executive was apparently low enough on the list of external candidates that his name didn’t make it to the rumor mill. I’m told his name fell below those of candidates like former Compaq CEO Michael Capellas, IBM (IBM) software chief Steve Mills and his colleague Ginni Rometty, senior VP of the sales, marketing and strategy unit, none of whom was interested.
Apotheker, on the other hand, was–an important qualification.
And, for what it’s worth, HP (HPQ) insists he was the company’s first choice for CEO.
“Our board of directors cast the net very far and very wide both internally and externally,” HP director Bob Ryan said during a conference call this morning. “We ended up with six people who could have done the job. We decided Leo was the best and he was the only one we offered the job to.”
And by tapping him as CEO, HP has finally filled its leadership vacuum and under Apotheker may begin charting a more aggressive course in the enterprise systems and software markets. As TBR analyst Stuart Williams wrote yesterday, “ Apotheker fills a gap in HP’s expertise. HP is now a three-way player: HP is confident that hardware and services are on positive trajectories, and is once again filling out its portfolio by strengthening the third leg of the IT stool: hardware, software, and services.”