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HP CEO Apotheker Job on the Line

HP's board is meeting on Wednesday to discuss replacing CEO Leo Apotheker, according to several published reports citing unnamed sources that are apparently informed on the matter. HP declined to comment on the news that was first reported by Bloomberg.

Former California Republican gubernatorial candidate and onetime eBay CEO Meg Whitman is said to be a candidate to replace Apotheker, according to the reports. HP earlier this year added Whitman to its board following a massive shakeup of its slate of directors.

Wall Street welcomed the reports, with investors pushing HP shares up more than 7 percent for the day.

If indeed HP does fire Apotheker, it would come less than a year after he took the reigns over from departed CEO Mark Hurd, himself ousted following discrepancies on his expense reports and allegations of sexual harassment that were later unsubstantiated.

Apotheker was a former CEO of software giant SAP, a role he also held for less than a year. His tenure at HP has been shaky. For three consecutive quarters, HP has lowered its revenue forecasts.

Then came a series of bombshell announcements last month, including HP's plan to evaluate the sale or spinoff of its PC business, its planned $10.3 billion acquisition of software provider Autonomy, and its decision to cut the cord on the TouchPad, the slate computer designed to compete with Apple's iPad.

The moves have raised numerous questions. While HP is looking to emphasize higher-margin growth areas such as software and services, it has also positioned itself as a supplier of the complete IT stack. Though PC manufacturing is a notoriously low-margin business, HP is the market-leading supplier of PCs, and gains economy of scale across its hardware businesses given its huge clout as a purchaser of computing components such as memory, CPUs and disk drives. Also, critics questioned the wisdom of pre-announcing the possible divestiture of its PC business.

Apotheker's decision to jettison HP's slate and mobile phone business also came as a shock, coming about six weeks after HP released the TouchPad slate. Prior to the about-face move, HP had talked up the TouchPad and the webOS platform that powers it as key components of the company's push into cloud computing.

Meanwhile, HP's agreement to acquire enterprise search vendor Autonomy has had critics questioning the $10.3 billion price tag (see "Will Autonomy Save HP?"). Autonomy had sales of less than $1 billion last year, meaning HP has agreed to acquire Autonomy for 11 times its revenues.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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