In a development that has to make you wonder where HP’s board of directors was this summer, the group is reportedly considering whether or not to dump CEO Leo Apotheker and replace him with former eBay (NSDQ: EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman, a member of that same board. The possible change at the top comes one month after Apotheker unveiled a new direction for HP (NYSE: HPQ) that would involve shuttering its tablet division and spinning off its PC group in order to focus on enterprise products and services.
At the time Apotheker made those announcements, he said that the board had authorized him and his management team to take those steps in hopes of turning HP’s stock price around. So if those directors were on board with the strategy in August, it’s a little surprising that they are thinking about changing leadership already, according to reports from Bloomberg and AllThingsD.
HP certainly could have handled this transition more smoothly. The decision to unload unsold TouchPad inventory at fire-sale prices caused quite the commotion, and it seems that HP is having trouble finding a buyer for WebOS now that Samsung appears to have decided against such a move. And the uncertainty about where the PC group might wind up will likely cause some of HP’s business customers to delay their purchases, not knowing exactly where their accounts will wind up in six months.
But Whitman is known primarily for her role overseeing the meteoric rise of a free-wheeling consumer auction site, not an enterprise-focused hardware, software, and services company. Her failed 2010 run for governor of California didn’t exactly raise impressions of her as a strategic wonder either, with millions of dollars spent on TV ads failing to overcome the fallout from a failed attempt to cover up the fact that she had been aware that she had hired an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper after campaigning against illegal immigration. Don’t forget, this is the same board that fired former HP CEO Mark Hurd for fudging expense reports to disguise some sort of relationship with a contractor.
If the board was aware of Apotheker’s plans but disagreed with how they should be presented, shouldn’t they have prevented him from making them public? If they weren’t aware of Apotheker’s plans in contrast to what he said on the last earnings call, why hasn’t he been fired on the spot?
It seems HP’s board was for this plan until they were against it. Cue the Carly Fiorina jokes: what the hell is going on in Palo Alto?