Weary Hewlett-Packard watchers this week were downright relieved to hear reports that Carl Icahn was sniffing around the beleaguered IT giant. The unconfirmed rumors sparked a rally in HP shares.
The company has been through the wringer over the past 5 years, so news that the famed corporate raider might swoop in and shake up HP’s board — threaten to cut loose divisions as needed to maximize share holder value — struck them as good news. Especially since CEO Meg Whitman is asking them to wait out a continuing “multi-year” turnaround. Most shareholders have had it up to here with HP and waiting for it to get its act together.
In August, UBS analyst Steven Milunovich said HP would be worth more in pieces than whole, and before that a former CEO had floated the idea of selling off the PC business. That’s just the kind of thinking Icahn, chairman of Icahn Enterprises, has perfected. Most recently, Icahn’s been up to his ears in Netflix, snapping up shares and lobbying for the streaming media power to put itself on the block. Before that he has taken on Motorola and other tech companies.
Given the damage that HP’s board has helped inflict on the corporate brand and reputation over the past 5 years, Icahn might be just what the doctor ordered. That’s a pretty sad commentary on what was the icon of Silicon Valley.