Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Tick, Tick, Tick, HP Board: The Time to Act Is Today

The Hewlett-Packard board will meet as a whole today, after all kinds of committee confabs yesterday, in what sources describe as an intense debate over the fate of its current CEO, Léo Apotheker.

You know, the Léo who is now painfully twisting in the wind, after AllThingsD and Bloomberg broke the news that he might be ousted after only 11 months on the job, and replaced — at least for now — by director and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman.

If appointed, even without many critical credentials in the enterprise business, Whitman would be HP’s seventh CEO since 1999. That’s more corporate marriages and exec beheadings than England’s Henry VIII!

The possibility of one more, including other internal and external candidates, sent long-suffering HP shares soaring yesterday, and the stock was still up almost seven percent in after-hours trading.

That Wall Street glee is surely to come crashing down and very soon today, if the current crisis at the Silicon Valley tech giant — which has stumbled from one to the next over the last few years — is not quickly and definitively resolved by the board.

That means, of course, the likely firing of Apotheker, whose tenure has been rocky, articulating a strategy that the company actually plans to stick to and getting a new leader into place.

Translation: Don’t pull a Yahoo board here and drag out the situation to the most excruciating level possible.

Beyond the moribund stock and pissed-off shareholders, the uncertainty will be wearing on employee morale, including HP’s top execs.

According to sources close to the situation, leaders of HP’s many huge divisions had no idea that Apotheker’s head was on the block — although many I spoke to said they had hoped for a while that it would be.

“Leo is a very nice guy, but he has been an ineffective leader for HP at a very important time, with all that has been changing in the tech industry and the pressure from our competitors,” said one person at the company.

Said another, “[Apotheker will] get the blame, but this board needs to get a plan into place we can all follow, and then march this giant army in some direction, because all these shifts have been disheartening.”

I would imagine so.

Still, said sources, the board might not resolve the problem until later today, or Friday, even.

“The board really can’t look like it is making rash decisions,” said one person close to the situation. “And it cannot be hurtling from one mess to another and making an even bigger one in the process.”

That, given the many troubles at HP in recent years — from ever-shifting strategies to disappointing forecasts — is what you might call an understatement.


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