Dissident Hewlett-Packard board member Walter Hewlett said in a conference call Tuesday that the company would likely need a new CEO if the planned merger with Compaq Computer is shot down.
Hewlett, talking to investors, analysts and reporters, once again set out his case against the proposed $21 billion merger, and used some of his strongest words yet against Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina in opposing the deal.
"I don't believe Carly Fiorina will survive as CEO if this merger is voted down," Hewlett said. "She has made this vote a referendum of herself. ... If this merger is defeated, I don't think she would have the credibility needed to lead this company."
Hewlett, son of one of HP's co-founders, has been actively campaigning against the HP-Compaq merger, which shareholders will vote to approve or reject on March 19. Citing what he said would be a loss of shareholder value, Hewlett reiterated that his "focus and execute" plan would be better for shareholders instead of acquiring rival Compaq.
If the deal does fail, Hewlett said, HP would need to find new leadership.
"I believe we should find a good CEO," Hewlett said. "This time around, we do not want someone learning on the job."
The reference was to Fiorina, a former top Lucent executive whose first CEO position was at HP. "Many companies have changed their CEOs as part of good governance. It is not something to be feared."
Conversely, the report in support of the proposed deal issued last week by Institutional Shareholder Services, stated that "Mr. Hewlett is unlikely to be renominated for election to the [HP] board, should he lose this contest."