HP’s Mess: Blame the Board

By  |  Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 4:29 am

James Stewart of the New York Times has a fascinating, depressing story on why HP is apparently about to terminate yet another outsider CEO:

Interviews with several current and former directors and people close to them involved in the search that resulted in the hiring of Mr. Apotheker reveal a board that, while composed of many accomplished individuals, as a group was rife with animosities, suspicion, distrust, personal ambitions and jockeying for power that rendered it nearly dysfunctional.

Among their revelations: when the search committee of four directors narrowed the candidates to three finalists, no one else on the board was willing to interview them. And when the committee finally chose Mr. Apotheker and again suggested that other directors meet him, no one did. Remarkably, when the 12-member board voted to name Mr. Apotheker as the successor to the recently ousted chief executive, Mark Hurd, most board members had never met Mr. Apotheker.

“I admit it was highly unusual,” one board member who hadn’t met Mr. Apotheker told me. “But we were just too exhausted from all the infighting.” During Mr. Apotheker’s brief tenure, once-proud H.P. has become a laughingstock in Silicon Valley. Its results have weakened, its stock has plummeted and his strategy shifts have puzzled people inside and outside the company. Hewlett did not respond to an email seeking comment.

You gotta think there’s a decent chance that Meg Whitman or any other new chief will reconsider Apotheker’s desire to get rid of HP’s PC business. But I don’t dare dream that the bizarrely rapid termination of the TouchPad might also be subject to revisiting.

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