Analyst: HP head's departure could be marketing coup for competitors

The departure of Carly Fiorina as Hewlett-Packard Co.'s chairman and chief executive ? and no permanent replacement lined up ? could be a marketing boon for HP competitors in the government market, one analyst said today.

"HP doesn't have a clear transition plan; they said they will look externally for a new CEO," said Samir Bhavnani, senior analyst with Current Analysis in Sterling, Va. The big winner in this shakeup, particularly in the government market, is Dell Inc., he said

HP competitors, such as Dell, now will be able to go to government organizations and claim that HP doesn't have a leader or a cohesive plan for the future, Bhavnani said. Other companies have avoided this uncertainty by creating transition plans and making them public.

Officials with the government units of HP and Dell could not be reached for comment.

"Microsoft with Bill Gates had a transition plan with Steve Ballmer, and Michael Dell had a transition plan with Kevin Rollins," Bhavnani said. "Now, you go to HP, and there's no transition plan. They said [they're] going to go look externally for a new CEO. It's almost like a rudderless ship."

Fiorina was asked to step down as HP's chairman and chief executive because of differences over the company's business strategy, analysts and company officials said.

"In my mind, it really means that the board didn't like the leadership she was providing," Bhavnani said, "and that they feel like since the merger [with Compaq] they've given the company enough time to execute, and they don't feel like they've gotten the results.

"There's obviously some serious disagreement as to what the board wants to do and what Carly wanted to do," he said.

HP's Chief Financial Officer Robert Wayman, who was named CEO on an interim basis, said in a phone conference that the issue of how to execute the company's strategy led to the split.

"I think the particular point the board is making with regard to supporting the strategy that Carly had pursued is around the portfolio of businesses that we have as a company today," Wayman said. "We think it is a unique portfolio, one that is stronger together than apart. If you follow the company, you know that question has been brought to the table and asked of both of management and the board periodically over the past several years."

This difference of opinion may center on HP's recent decision to merge its printer group with its computer group, Bhavnani said.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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