Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Is HP Becoming A Dumping Ground For Failed Execs?

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 25, 2011

Therese Poletti over at MarketWatch writes about Hewlett-Packard's new board of directors. She notices that many of the new directors were pushed out of their former jobs or left under a cloud:

...on the surface, it looks like H-P has become a haven for failed executives. The biggest dismay was adding Meg Whitman, former chief of eBay Inc., to a board that will number 13 after H-P's annual meeting in March.

More recently, Whitman achieved infamy for spending more than $160 million on a losing run for California governor. Her last years at eBay were marred in part by the $2.6 billion acquisition in 2005 of Internet phone service Skype, a deal that didn't include its software code and never fit well within eBay.

Another gem on the remade board is Patricia Russo. Like H-P's former CEO Carly Fiorina, Russo was once a rising star at Lucent Technologies, but was forced out as CEO of Alcatel-Lucent SA in 2008, after the difficult merger failed to achieve results, cultures clashed and losses widened.

Another new board member, Gary Reiner, had been at General Electric Co. since 1996, but quit in March 2010 as chief information officer to "pursue other opportunities."

She quotes Trip Chowdhry, a Global Equities Research analyst:

I am not sure I agree with the choices that were made .... I don't think H-P should be a place where unemployed executives are dumped.

Maybe HP's new CEO, former SAP CEO Léo Apotheker likes familiar company. Mr Apotheker "created an uproar among customers by hiking support costs and eventually got the boot last year, just seven months after taking the reins."

Foremski's Take: Silicon Valley has a famous reputation for high tolerance of failure -- 9 out of 10 ventures fail. So it is in Silicon Valley's finest tradition that HP has remade its board. Past success is no guarantee of future success, and past failure is no guarantee of future failure either.

These are all people who want to put their past behind them so I would say it is a highly motivated group. A very good sign for HP.


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