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Who is Going to Run HP Next? 8 Names to Watch

09 Aug 2010 | by James Brehm
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Who’s Going to Run HP Next?

8 Names to Watch

By James Brehm, Senior Consultant, Frost & Sullivan

Like most others in the tech and business world, I was surprised by the news that Mark Hurd, President, CEO and Chairman of HP was stepping down immediately. Sex scandals are nothing new (just ask Tiger Woods, Jesse James or Bill Clinton) but for someone like Hurd who was brought in by HP 5 years ago to provide stability and operational excellence, this is something rather shocking.

After former CEO Carly Fiorina’s challenged tenure, HP looked inside and outside the company to find a leader with the operational excellence and fortitude to carry forth on the HP vision and integrate the acquisition with Compaq that had been made some 3 years prior.  Over time, he did more than that, leading HP from being a printer and server company into a true tech giant, through the professional services acquisition of EDS and mobility acquisition of Palm. Employees liked the stability, customers enjoyed the vision and Wall Street, by way of stock price, found another darling.

One thing HP and Hurd did right was to assemble a strong management team. The strength in leadership they have, with Cathie Lesjak as CFO and Acting CEO, Todd Bradley leading consumer and Ann Livermore leading enterprise, should allow them to remain stable and growing amid this crisis. 

What’s not known is where the next leader for HP will come from. Will they go inside or outside the company for the leader?  Only time will tell as a succession plan is not something I'm aware of. Why create a succession plan for a 53 year old CEO who is at the top of his game?

HP has a strong board and they have assembled a search committee to begin the task immediately.  They will have to be careful to bring in somebody that understands technology, mobility, the enterprise, as well as consumers.  Given that this incident is a large distraction for the firm, bringing in a woman might mitigate this.  There are multiple phenomenal candidates internally, or they can go outside the company and look to other candidates. The question is, do you find a best-of-breed CEO, a strong manager (without CEO experience) from a very large technologically and operationally excellent companies like Cisco or IBM, or do you get someone who can help HP build a cult-like brand (a la Apple)?

Finally, let’s look way outside the box. HP doesn’t have a cult-like following or tremendous brand affinity. Companies like Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Salesforce.com, Rackspace, Harley-Davidson, Coca-Cola, BestBuy, and Ben & Jerry’s are recognized not only for their size and not only for their brand strength, but also for the affinity and loyalty they command.

Customers of these companies are loyal and they identify with the brand and its promise. Additionally, there is a certain peer-group approval for using the brand. Could HP harness an executive from one of these organizations to create such affinity? One has to wonder given the mix of diverse customers, products and services – but it certainly is interesting to think “what if…”.

On my list of potential candidates:


Tied for number 1: Todd Bradley and Ann Livermore

Todd currently leads the Personal Solutions Group at HP and has a spectacular resume, including stints at GE Capital, Dunn & Bradstreet, FedEx, Gateway and Palm. After leading Palm, is he the right guy to lead HP down the path of mobility?


Ann has had a spectacular 28-year career at HP and currently leads the $54B Enterprise Business Unit. Ann was a strong candidate when HP brought in Hurd to succeed Fiorina in 2005. I’m not sure the board was ready to go with back-to-back female CEOs in 2005, but anyone who’s met Ann or seen her deliver a keynote certainly knows she has the chops for the position. Given the nature of Hurd’s departure, does Ann have a leg up on Bradley?


Number 3: Padmasree Warrior

I personally believe any company would be remiss in not considering Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Cisco and former CTO of Motorola, for a position like this, given her leadership at these companies. (And she also has nearly 1.4 million followers on Twitter.) If providing a vision around combining complex communication solutions and leading an organization by example is what the HP board wants, here you go.  

Number 4: John Chen

Another option for HP right now, given their focus on mobility and strength in the enterprise would be to get someone like John Chen, CEO of Sybase. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking personally with John Chen, you’ll find that in addition to being an extremely bright and energetic CEO, he has the uncanny ability to convey complex ideas in easy to understand terms. An executive with operational excellence who has delivered true shareholder value (through the sale of Sybase to SAP), John is respected and revered on Wall Street. Chen built Sybase around the vision of the Unwired Enterprise which fits HP’s current model. His ties to China could be invaluable.


Long shots:

Number 5: Ursula M. Burns

With perhaps the person on this list with the most storied career at a single company is chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation, Ursula Burns. Starting as an engineering intern, Ursula now commands the highest office of one of the most well-known brands in printing and document management. Additionally she was appointed by President Barack Obama as vice chair of the President’s Export Council in 2010. Does she want to go up to the big leagues?


Number 6: Safra A. Catz

Safra Catz is President of Oracle Corporation. With an investment banking background and 11 years under her belt at Oracle, Safra is in a great place. But with Larry Ellison firmly entrenched and not leaving Oracle any time soon, how long does Safra Catz want to be number 2?


Number 7: Virginia Rometty

Ginni Rometty is Senior Vice President, IBM Global Sales and Distribution. With global responsibility for IBM's worldwide sales results, which exceeded $95 billion in 2009, Ms. Rometty may be considered a dark horse in the HP race because as HP begins its search for a replacement for Hurd, IBM continues its succession plan for IBM Chief Sam Palmisano. Even so, we can’t overlook her as she is consistently viewed as one of the most powerful women in business, as ranked by both Forbes and Fortune magazines. 


Number 8: Jim Steele

Jim Steele is Chief Customer Officer for Salesforce.com. Mr. Steele has a technology leadership background which began 32 years ago at IBM. With a resume that includes Salesforce, Ariba and IBM, could Jim create Salesforce-like affinity at HP?