HP’s Own CEO Candidates Unlikely to Seek Freedom After Passover
Hewlett-Packard’s decision to name Léo Apotheker as its new CEO hasn’t gone over particularly well with investors, who dragged the company’s stock into the mud this morning. At $40.50, HP shares are down 3.76 percent as I write this. So how is it going over internally, particularly with those execs who’d been internal candidates for the job?
This is, after all, the third consecutive time that HP has gone outside to pick a leader, previously hiring Carly Fiorina from Lucent and Mark Hurd from NCR (NCR). And before deciding on Apotheker, the company was known to be considering three CEO-caliber candidates from its own roster–Todd Bradley, executive VP of HP’s personal systems group; Ann Livermore, vice president of HP’s $54 billion Enterprise Business; and Dave Donatelli, executive VP of Enterprise Servers and the guy who helped lead HP’s successful bidding war for 3Par. Donatelli is a relatively new hire and may not have had strong CEO aspirations (yet), but Livermore has been passed over the the top job three times now, and sources at HP say Bradley had been “hopeful” about becoming the company’s next CEO.
Has Apotheker’s appointment made these three execs flight risks?
J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz doesn’t think so. “Livermore has been an HP-lifer and credited with integrating the enterprise services and hardware practices,” he wrote in a note to clients today. “We think [she] will want to stick around as the enterprise solutions mantra continues. Meanwhile, Bradley has been instrumental in augmenting the personal systems business, and we think he will be focused on next leveraging the Palm acquisition into a potential disruptive force in mobile communications environments. Lastly, Dave Donatelli is still relatively new to HP, and we expect him to be busy integrating the 3Par and 3Com assets, both deals of which he was the chief architect, based on our conversations with industry contacts.”
Makes sense, right? Livermore is a veteran and her hopes for the CEO spot couldn’t have been too high after being passed over for it twice. Donatelli has been at the company only a little over a year, reports to Livermore and is still making his mark at the company. And Bradley, though surely disappointed, has HP’s developing webOS-based device business in which to take solace. That said, if there is a flight risk among these three, he seems the most likely. Jokingly introduced as the CEO of HP at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference earlier this week, Bradley quipped, “Not yet.” And it seems clear he had his eye on the job. But will losing it to Apotheker inspire him to hop trains? Tough to say. In any event, were he to threaten to leave, HP (HPQ) would surely do all that it could to keep him (maybe it already is). Losing him at this point would be terrible for the company’s consumer business.