As HP Board Meets After Palm Turmoil, What’s the Next Shoe to Drop?
As the board of Hewlett-Packard gathers for a planned meeting — to say the least — there’s a lot to talk about these days.
Several sources said that a series of recent discussions among its members have been intense ones, focused in part on how to spin the company out of its current cycle of bad news and what to do about the situation, which could mean even more dramatic change at the company in the months to come.
There is certainly plenty of trouble to go around, even if solutions to HP’s woes seem hard to reach.
The talks by HP directors — who include venture investor Marc Andreessen and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman — comes just a day after the tech giant announced the layoffs of hundreds of employees in its Palm division.
This inevitable move came after HP’s sudden news in August that it was shuttering its webOS hardware business.
Add to that a proposed class action lawsuit, filed Sept. 13 in the U.S. District Court for Central California, along with another handful of law firms that are launching their own investigations of HP over the move.
In the suit, according to a report by Arik Hesseldahl, an “HP shareholder named Richard Gammel alleged that comments by CEO LÃ©o Apotheker — concerning the company’s earnings expectations, the importance of its personal computer business and plans to move ahead with devices running the webOS operating system — gave a vastly different indication of actions HP took on Aug. 18, when it killed the webOS hardware business and announced plans to spin off the PC business and spend $10 billion to acquire Autonomy.”
In other words, lots to talk about for HP’s directors, who have been under siege, essentially, ever since the board fired former CEO Mark Hurd over a variety of allegations related to a sexual harassment inquiry more than a year ago.
Since Apotheker took over for Hurd soon after, HP’s stock has plummeted almost 43 percent in a year’s time. By comparison, rival Oracle’s shares are up more than three percent in the same period, and Apple stock has risen more than 50 percent.
That share decline, given a series of major moves and just as many gaffes, has put Apotheker in the hot seat for sure.
How much hotter it will get for him and the HP board remains to be seen.