The Market Has Clearly Spoken on H-P

 | Sep 22, 2011 | 9:00 AM EDT
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If reports are true that Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) has a divided board, where some directors want to can CEO Leo Apothekar in favor of former eBay (EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman and some don't, we know what the market thinks about it because the stock rose 10% Wednesday.

The directors who want to bring Whitman in as CEO may have acted childishly by leaking the board's thinking to the press, but it's done and there's no way Apotheker can stay now. That much is clear.

The market despises this guy, though it's not entirely his fault. Nobody can be a CEO for only 11 months and be totally responsible for the stock declining 43% over that time. There were clearly problems festering for years at H-P that former CEO Mark Hurd glossed over and kept hidden until after he departed.

But Apotheker has to be one of the worst CEOs ever for a big company. He really could not have come across as any more out of touch and condescending than he has over his tenure.

The market clearly hates him and likes the idea of Whitman. She's a big name. She's tied to the past glory of a tech stalwart. It's a relief rally to the power of ten. Given that she's been on the board for 10 months, it seems completely reasonable to assume this is going to happen.

I don't think Whitman is perfect. She's a consumer Internet person, not a hardware -- or even a software -- person. Her last few years at eBay were marked by wild, non-strategic and overpaid acquisitions. She also socked away a ton of cash and perks for terrible stock performance.

But H-P shareholders don't care. Whitman seems like the Messiah compared to bumbling Apothekar. Have you ever heard anyone actually say that he's a great leader and just needs a fair shake? Anyone?

Apotheker should go -- and take a lot of the H-P board with him. Oh, I'm sorry, you hire a jerk CEO, destroy half the company's market cap, then fire him 11 months later, and it's not the board's fault? Give me a break, Ray Lane and Marc Andreessen. Somebody's got some explaining to do.

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