Hurd On The Street


Hewlett-Packard's new CEO has a name headline writers will love.

The selection of Mark Hurd, NCR's chief executive, to replace Carly Fiorina at HP also isn't lost on some bloggers, who acknowledge "many good joke possibilities" in the offing.

But to the industry and Wall Street, Hurd's selection is no laughing matter. Carl Howe, a consultant who writes at Blackfriar's Blog, says the following:

So let's get this straight. The board got rid of Carly Fiorina because she was too hard-nosed and wasn't enough in tune with 'The HP Way' pioneered by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. So to replace her, they hire someone whose description bears a striking resemblance to that of Chainsaw Al, the CEO who destroyed Sunbeam?

In all fairness, we shouldn't prejudge Mr. Hurd's performance. We admired his work at Teradata and expect he will work hard for HP. But this is a great example of corporate actions not being aligned with the messages that HP's board has been delivering. For years, we heard that Fiorina's problem was that she was too aggressive about the business results and not in tune with the more engineering- and consensus-based culture at HP. Hiring an even tougher, cost-cutting, turnaround executive makes those messages ring untrue for anyone who has been paying attention to HP's story.

Naomi Moneypenney, vice president of research and media at ManyWorlds Inc. and a former business and IT strategist at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, writes on her blog that while running NCR, Hurd "has improved the financial results of the company, but maybe not its strategy." She adds this:

... HP is not adept at monolothic operations. Never has been. Its history is in product innovation. The question is how can you continue to be known for innovation when you operate across many product lines? My answer is that HP needs to re-evaluate its overall strategy and start moving up the value curve in innovation.

In the end, though, HP's board may have been unable to ignore the obvious in selecting Hurd: He's got a track record of boosting a company's stock price. And HP's shares have been stuck in mud since its acquisition of Compaq. Writes blogger Bob V:

Mark Hurd, as CEO of NCR, oversaw a threefold increase in NCR's stock price. When he left Tuesday, their stock plummeted 17 percent, or about $1.2 billion worth of market capitalization. Mr. Hurd left to take the top job at Hewlett-Packard, which gained 10 percent, or about $3.95 billion worth of market capitalization on the news.

For HP shareholders, that may suffice as a strategy for now.