Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Search Under Way at HP for Autonomy’s Next Chief

The search is on at Hewlett-Packard for an executive to run Autonomy, the former British software firm for which HP paid $12 billion in combined cash and debt last year.

While there’s no word on who’s on the short list — I’m told the process is just getting under way — candidates from both inside and outside of HP are being considered.

Since the acquisition closed in October, Autonomy has so far turned out to be something of a disappointment, despite all the pronouncements that it represented an important opportunity for HP to diversify into software. During a conference call with analysts on May 24 and in a subsequent interview with AllThingsD, CEO Meg Whitman said that the team at Autonomy seemed to have trouble closing the deals that HP’s sales team would tee up. It reported “disappointing results” that hurt HP’s overall results, Whitman said, thus prompting the surprise departure of Autonomy’s founding CEO Mike Lynch. Since then, Autonomy has been been under HP’s chief strategy officer Bill Veghte.

Autonomy’s integration into HP is the last lingering bit of messy business left over from the memorable day of Aug. 18, 2011. That was the day that former CEO Léo Apotheker announced plans to spin off the PC business, acquire Autonomy, and then tied those two big strategic moves with a bow of a nasty earnings miss. Thirty-four days later, in no small part because of perceptions that he had overpaid for Autonomy, Apotheker was out of a job, and Whitman was his replacement.

Lynch, who personally banked $800 million on the sale, once publicly compared the relationship of Autonomy to HP to that of a cub and a “mother tiger.” Initially granted a lot of autonomy from the home office — no pun intended — its lean culture proved early on to be a poor fit within HP, according to a report in the U.K.’s Guardian. Soon after the deal closed last October, Autonomy’s heads of finance, marketing and of several sales teams bolted for the exits, and were said to be unhappy with what they saw as HP’s bureaucratic tendencies.

But Autonomy’s culture leaves a lot to be desired — at least in the eyes of people who work there. As Wired noted last month, its rating on Glassdoor.com, a site where employees rate a company based on work environment, is about as low as can be. Whoever gets the nod will have their work cut out for them on the employee morale and corporate culture fronts, plus the pressure will be on early and often to close deals.


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle