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Five outsiders who could lead Hewlett-Packard

Chris Kanaracus | Sept. 25, 2011
Having gone through a rash of CEOs in the past 10 to 15 years, Hewlett-Packard may soon find itself looking for yet another new chief.

4. Bill McDermott, co-CEO of SAP.

SAP-co CEO Bill McDermott presents in his regular public appearances the type of controlled, smooth confidence that HP could use in a leader right now.

He's also considered by experts to be one of the industry's top salesmen, focusing on that aspect of SAP's business while his co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe handles the technology end of things.

"If anything, he'd be able to improve the customer relationships," Wang said.

Hamerman echoed the notion. "I think he's a great spokesman for SAP. He projects the kind of communication skills and persona that Leo didn't have."

"On the other hand he's not a tech visionary," Hamerman said. "That's not what SAP wants him to do. His role is to focus on customer relationships and being an articulate spokesman. Right now HP needs a tech visionary and he's not the guy."

In addition, McDermott lacks experience in hardware, and actually makes a habit of saying publicly how disinterested SAP is in getting into that business directly. It's not clear how investors would react to him being chosen to lead the hardware-centric HP.

5. Mark Hurd, co-president of Oracle.

Yes, the same Mark Hurd who was ousted as HP CEO after a scandal involving his relationship a with a company contractor, and ended up quickly grabbing a job as co-president of Oracle.

On the plus side, "he knows HP inside and out, and from the financial side he already turned it around [as CEO there]," Scavo said.

But morale at HP was said to suffer under Hurd's watch. And obviously, he "doesn't have the best relationship with HP's board," Scavo said.

Not to mention that going back to HP would certainly constitute a betrayal of Hurd's close friend, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who famously defended Hurd and slammed the HP board after his firing.

Truth be told, anybody wanting Hurd back in the fold at HP is probably dreaming, according to Hamerman.

"[The HP board] made a big mess out of something they could have kept quiet, and embarrassed themselves in the process," he said. "They shouldn't have rocked the boat. But there's no chance he'll go back. That bridge is burned."


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