Howls from shareholders, question marks from insiders, blogs cranking up all over the Valley, now we have a target
What fun! Who is Leo Apotheker? I'd first of all remind readers that was the same reaction when the HP Board picked Mark Hurd, and the same when IBM picked Lew Gerstner. Not every outsider pick is a bad one, and not every insider pick is good
Apotheker is well known, and well respected, in Europe. Totally coincidentally I spent three days last week in Germany with the Intel/SAP Joint Ventures lead director. No, we weren't prescient enough to guess this selection, but it was a great visit re what is happening in Cloud Computing and ICT. SAP, of course, is the only viable contender against Oracle in the Enterprise Software world, and has done an incredible job over the years head-to-head. SAP has strong presence in Silicon Valley, both with their operations in Palo Alto (headed by veteran Ike Nassi) and the Hasso Plattner D'School at Stanford, started by David Kelley et al.
1. He speaks and thinks globally (fluent in five languages is a major plus these days), unlike the last guy. HP employees are 71% outside the US, as are 90% of their suppliers (this is no longer much of a US company, folks). HP sales are 73% outside US. The Enterprise wins will be elsewhere, not in the States. Every other candidate 'floated' was a US centric person.
2. He is a long-term SAP player, came up through the ranks, and served admirably as co-CEO for five years. The seven months before the sudden resignation can be explained (maybe rationalized) as a power play that didn't work for Plattner, and he was the sacrificial lamb. But this guy knows the industry of Enterprise Servers, Enterprise Storage, and Enterprise Software about as well as anyone out there. Put him together with Donatelli (work hard to keep Donatelli, by the way), and it could be very good
3. Getting Ray Lane to join, and LEAD the Board. WOW! This is blockbuster news actually. Lane was a HUGE part of Oracle success for years, was in fact the only humane face on the place. And he said for the WSJ, he joined HP "because of LEO A". Now that has to be read as extremely positive, from a guy that I have admired for years. The team of Donatelli, Leo A, and Ray Lane can be imagined as INSPIRED if you are betting on Cloud Computing and Enterprise Services as the play.
4. They did not pick someone from the hardware/consumer side (which is a hard business, especially as far behind as they are starting, and with the low margins of most of it).
5. They did not pick someone who was a Hurd clone (need I remind you how angry the employees were at him?)
6. He is not unafraid to be a spokesperson in public (this IS the largest high-tech company on the globe, and the only one of the top ten who had a CEO who would not take speaking engagements or talk to public issues).
7. He has high marks both as a strategist and an operationally sound guy (notwithstanding whatever led to the denouement at SAP)
1. He is not an insider, nor is the new heir apparent leadership (Leo A, Ray Lane, Donatelli together are all new to HP Way)
2. Probably lose Bradley over the slight (not sure how to interpret this, stay tuned)
3. Half of HP's business, and two-thirds of its profits, come from PCs and Printers. He needs to keep some of the key leaders here
4. He doesn't look or sound charismatic. But then, compare it with Bradley, Livermore, or Donatelli -- not much different.
5. He doesn't sound inspiring (maybe the same point as above?).
6. He doesn't sound "lovable" in the old HP Way sense. And HP employees long for someone who will vote for them too.
All things considered, I would have to say, CONGRATULATIONS to the HP Board. This is an interesting, and bold choice. We're pulling for you!