Back to Business for Meg Whitman

We hardly knew you, Meg Whitman.

by Brian Leubitz

The internet is abuzz with the rumor that Meg Whitman is about to be named CEO of Hewlett-Packard:

Meg Whitman, eBay’s former chief executive, will likely be named to lead Hewlett-Packard after markets close on Thursday, according to a person familiar with board decisions.

The decision to replace Léo Apotheker, the company’s chief executive, after only 11 months on the job is all but made, lacking only a final vote, said the person, who is not authorized to speak for the board. While Mr. Apotheker is going, his strategy, including consideration of spinning off H.P.’s personal computer business from other parts of the company, will remain in place. (NY Times)

While there were rumors that Whitman would be considered for a prominent role in any Romney administration, it now appears that her attempts at government greatness are behind her. She won’t be running for Senate next year, and future government positions are unlikely.

At this point the more important question for Californians is whether she can save HP without further jettisoning thousands of jobs at the once (and future??) Silicon Valley giant.

9 thoughts on “Back to Business for Meg Whitman”

  1. HP is a huge company with significant technology background and presence in technology fields. Whitman really doesn’t have a technology background. Nor is her business management record as stellar as she likes to represent it. It’s sort of like Rick Perry’s Texas miracle–based on luck, circumstances, and stuff other people actually did. Whitman had a lackluster record at Mattel, a disasterous one at FTD, and a decidedly mixed one at eBay. Remember the Skype buyout? She essentially rode a unique concept up as it boomed and was then unable to do anything about it as it stagnated. And, while eBay is based online, it isn’t really a technology business so much as a technology-enabled flea market. It’s a retail business. It just happens to be located online.

    Now, you could say HP does a lot of retail business too. But they do it through other stores and channel partners, or through direct sales to business. These last two areas tend to be technology heavy–selling into big data centers, for example. Whitman knows nothing about that market.

    So, with a lackluster management record and no experience in the industry, what makes the board think she’ll do better than her predecessors? I suppose she’s less likely to have an affair than Mark Hurd. But more likely to start a fight. And unlike Apotheker, who did a reasonable remake of The Invisible Man until dropping his bombshell last month, Queen Meg is likely to be a press hog. None of which recommends her to turn around one of the largest firms in Silicon Valley. If we’re lucky, she won’t be any worse than Carly Fiorina, who also found herself vastly overmatched. If not, Whitman could have serious negative impact on the Silicon Valley economy.

    Please don’t misunderstand me. This has nothing to do with the fact that Whitman is a woman. HP had a long-serving and highly regarded female senior executive who was widely expected to get the CEO nod before they brought in Fiorina. I never heard what happened to the other woman or why the board chose Fiorina instead. But, from what I heard, the other woman would have been miles better. But this is the second time the HP board has chosen a woman for flash instead of substance. If shareholders are smart, they’ll get rid of the board members who made this stupid decision, and follow by getting rid of Whitman.  

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