Meg Whitman may take over in HP CEO shakeup

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Meg Whitman seemed to come a step closer to taking over as HP CEO on Thursday, with a report saying she was likely to be named the company’s new chief executive after the market closed.

The report, from AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher, acknowledged that ‘the situation could certainly change,’ but that the Hewlett-Packard board was ready to install the former EBay Inc. CEO as HP’s permanent -- not temporary -- chief executive. Swisher cited anoymous sources.


Even with that report, HP gave back most of the strong 6.7% gains it saw Wednesday on rumors of current CEO Leo Apotheker’s ouster.

HP has not commented on the situation.

Meanwhile, analysts mulled over whether Whitman, a current HP board member, would be a good fit for the company’s top position. Thursday morning a couple of analysts worried about her qualifications for running a business hardware firm:

‘While we believe she has proven to be a very capable manager helping grow EBay from a start-up into one of the largest internet companies,’ wrote Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee in a note to investors, ‘we think an ideal candidate for HPQ should have extensive experience in the enterprise market.’

“The scenarios for HP and its customers range from poor, to bad, to worse,’ wrote Carter Lusher, an analyst at research group Ovum. “Rumors that former EBay CEO and current HP board member Meg Whitman might be an interim replacement for Apotheker would do little for the confidence of HP’s enterprise customers. Whitman’s expertise lies primarily in the consumer market, and an interim leader will just prolong the sense of uncertainty.’

That uncertainty certainly seems to be floating around in HP-land today, with no official word yet on whether it will be Apotheker, Whitman or someone else, and hours to go before market close.

As Jeffrey Fidacaro of Susquehanna International Group said yesterday, ‘There are too many loose ends here that lead to uncertainty, and uncertainty leads to a lower stock price.’



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-- David Sarno