Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Well, THAT was a fine flurry of events. Along with many others, I weighed in on an opinion piece, when asked (in advance) "what do you think?" The problem is that soundbites are what the TV guys and the journalists are after, not the 'full story'.

Why did Leo get bounced? Well, lots of back story here. When did it start? Some might say the day he was named, given that two-thirds of the Board deigned to meet him in advance to interview him. That story was among the more incredulous to me; two-thirds of the Board at the largest high-tech company on the globe didn't "have time or energy" to interview the one standing candidate after they'd gotten rid of the thug on trumped up charges? Huh? These folk were getting $325,000 for six meetings a year; couldn't they 'throw in' one extra hour and at least meet Leo?

What did Leo do that was so bad? Well, killed the stock price by 50%, say all the WallStreeters and p'o'd shareholders. Not exactly, if you go correlate dates and stock price. Hurd in April got HP stock to $54, it fell 15% to $45 when 3rd quarter results were 'pre-announced' and another 15% to $38 when his departure happened, along with all of the foodfight for the next five weeks or so. Did he have hanky-panky, if so why should it matter, how consensual was it, did he really do more than we've all learned so far (answer -- of course), and so on...

Leo's 'regime' if we may call it that, starts at the $38 level, and ended at $24 or so, down another 37%. So the Board, if you will, abetted a total fall of 55%, but Leo did not do all of that by himself.

No one can defend the atrocious PR moves of the 3rd quarter announcements -- at least no one that I've met. Theories about sabotaged leaks abound, and after the shameful way that the Board handled Leo's dismissal, it is easier to believe them.

More fundamentally, Leo was a victim, in my view, of the vast difference between today's American press and the European business press on the one hand, and the gulf between the American business press now vs. when the Cookie Guy took over IBM nearly twenty years ago. Each faced a situation where the structural changes of the industry and the alignment of investments were at odds. At IBM, the wheels had already come off the wagon; at HP, they were about to do so.

It had to take courage to go to the street, ala David Packard's symbolic statements of the past, to say "we're going to take the heat, and change the strategy, and fix this over some time". Packard, though, owned the place; Leo did not. And this Board has no patience or ability to take the heat, or even, it might seem, understanding of the issues out there. How else could they sign off on dumping PCs?

When IBM dumped PCs on Lenovo, they were fourth in a field of three, losing money, share, and image. HP is the biggest kahuna on the planet, making almost the highest margins (next to Apple), with share = Dell plus Apple put together, in the biggest single product area by dollars on the globe. Bigger even than the Dreamliner.

But the key is the Enterprise play. Which is what the TouchPad was designed to do, NOT to be an Apple i-Pad killer. So who made the dumb decision to go to Best Buy. Does Best Buy sell the PCs and servers for infrastructure at the Fortune 1000? NO...
Someone has been seriously duped on this 'multi-pronged' and flawed strategy. And that isn't addressed or fixed with this CEO change.

So, time will tell. But it is not sanguine. I can only hope that the 'new team' gets it right, somehow, sometime soon. But when (and if) they do, it will look a lot more like Leo's strategy than Hurd's, and a lot more like Carly's than Platt's. And there will be room for a book called "What happened to Camelot?"


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