Ralph Whitworth, the activist investor who served as interim chairman of Hewlett-Packard Co., resigned from the computer maker's board and is taking a leave from his money management firm Relational Investors to focus on his health.
Hewlett-Packard will discuss a replacement for Whitworth, 58, at its next meeting, the second-biggest computer maker said today in a statement. His duties at Relational will be assumed by co-founder David Batchelder and other members of the senior management team, the firm said in a separate statement.
A Hewlett-Packard board member since 2011, Whitworth was named interim chairman in April 2013, when Ray Lane stepped down in the aftermath of the exit of former Chief Executive Officer Leo Apotheker. During Whitworth's tenure as a director, Hewlett- Packard hired a new CEO, Meg Whitman, who has struggled to turn around the world's second-biggest computer maker, with 34,000 jobs cut and as many as 16,000 under way.
"Ralph has been a friend and close advisor to me, the HP leadership team and every member of the board for nearly three years," Whitman said in the statement today. "He has been a wonderful contributor to our efforts to turn HP around."
Shares of Hewlett-Packard, based in Palo Alto, California, fell 0.4 percent to $34.01 at 8:01 a.m. in New York. They had advanced 22 percent this year through yesterday.
Founded in 1996, Relational buys stakes in companies it considers undervalued and then lobbies executives and boards for changes to boost investor returns. In recent years, the firm has targeted industrial companies including equipment manufacturer SPX Corp., bearings maker Timken Co., machinery builder Illinois Tool Works Inc. and hazardous waste disposer Clean Harbors Inc.
"Relational remains fully committed to serving its clients' interests and wishes Ralph and his family all the best at this difficult time," the San Diego, California-based firm said in the statement.
When Whitworth joined the Hewlett-Packard board, he told management he'd push for share buybacks, higher dividends or more investment in research, a person with knowledge of the situation said at the time. The quarterly dividend is now 16 cents a share, up from 12 cents in 2011. Research and development spending was $3.14 billion last year, down from $3.25 billion in 2011.
Relational retained a stake of about 1.5 percent in Hewlett-Packard as of April, according to a filing.
More recently, Whitworth's investment firm has targeted Manitowoc Co., urging a spinoff of its food-service business, responsible for ice makers and freezers, from its industrial business, which makes and services cranes and boom trucks. In May, Relational disclosed a stake of about 3.5 percent in B/E Aerospace Inc. as the maker of aircraft seats conducts a strategic review.
Relational also holds stakes in energy group Hess Corp., agricultural commodity processor Bunge Ltd., snacks supplier Mondelez International Inc., x-ray maker Hologic Inc. and air- conditioning manufacturer Ingersoll-Rand Plc, according to its most recent holdings disclosures.