Monday, January 24, 2011

much ado last week for the HP Board

New stories around the HP circuit. First, the Board is being recrafted. Four members are stepping down in the March re-election, kind of unheard of since Packard cleansed the Board in 1992. Joel Hyatt, John Joyce, Robert Ryan, and Lucille Salhany are all declining to stand for re-election; two of them reportedly for backing Mark Hurd 'too long' in the acrimonious debate about his stewardship and eventual resignation.

The new members include the by-now well-known Meg Whitman, a nearly as well-known Pat Russo, and Gary Reiner, Dominique Senequier, and Shumeet Banerji. The pedigrees read well, certainly in terms of worldly connections and high accomplishment. But so did the last group, in the main.

What makes for a great Board Member? And what distinguishes great boards?

Unfortunately, it seems hard to get very balanced opinion, even from avowed and acknowledged pundits. For example, one of the most celebrated (certainly in terms of proferred quotes) Corporate Governance experts, Charles Elson at the Univ of Delaware is Director of the John Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance there, opined Friday last week that "four directors going out at once is unusual. Boards should not have this much drama.... They are all quite respected. The question is why?"

Elson knows better. He even said better last summer. The strongest of course then was Joe Nocera with the New York Times, who wrote: "it ginned up a tabloid-ready scandal that only serves to bring shame, once again, on the HP Board.... The last time the HP Board did something shameful ... was the famous 'pretexting' scandal...."

But Apple's board consisted of great luminaries, from the tech industry. Eric Schmidt and Bill Campbell, for example, and Jerome York and Al Gore from the national scene. And they were, and still are, uniformly assailed for a variety of sins, even as the company has shown spectacular performance. But they haven't ousted their leader.

HP, recall, under Hurd showed great performance improvement, if only for a time. Cheating the future almost always helps the present. So, now we have change, at the Board level. One step at a time....

No comments: