Partners To HP: Our Picks For CEO (And They're Already On The Payroll)

HP's solution provider partners hope the vendor looks inside to replace Mark Hurd as president and CEO and are placing their bets on two of HP's most aggressive executives as the primary candidates.

Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group, and Dave Donatelli, executive vice president and general manager of HP's enterprise servers, storage and networking business, should be the leading candidates to head HP, according to solution providers, who hope Hurd's replacement will be named as quickly as possible.

Hurd departed HP last month after an investigation into what the company called improperly filed expenses and an improper relationship with a subcontractor.

Hurd late Monday was announced as a new co-president at Oracle.

Bradley is a longtime HP executive and for the past three years has headed HP's Personal Systems Group as it made HP the largest PC vendor in the world.

Donatelli is a former top executive from HP's top storage rival, EMC, where he spent 22 years, most recently as president of the EMC Storage Division. Donatelli joined HP in April 2009, at which time he was sued by EMC over his noncompete clause with the company.

It is important for HP to replace Hurd as quickly as possible, but the company is fortunate in having a strong group of executives from whom to choose, said John Convery, executive vice president of vendor relations and marketing at Denali Advanced Integration, a Redmond, Wash.-based HP partner.

That group includes Bradley, Donatelli and Ann Livermore, executive vice president for enterprise business, Convery said.

"You see leadership ready to step up at HP," Convery said. "HP has CEO-quality leaders in all its business groups. I hope the next CEO comes from inside the company. It takes time to build a company's strategies."

NEXT: Who's Best For HP And The Channel?

All three executives are friends of the channel, Convery said. "And HP would not skip a beat on their leadership in the industry [with any of them]," he said.

Another HP solution provider, who requested anonymity, said his bet is on Bradley as the front-runner, with Donatelli close behind mainly because he has not been at HP long enough to to prove himself to the board of directors.

But Donatelli is in the running because HP's board has backed his hand twice -- in acquiring 3Com and 3Par, the solution provider said. "The 3Com acquisition is viewed as having been a very shrewd one," the solution provider added. "Again, the fact that the board backed his hand as the bidding went up on 3Par shows they have confidence in him."

HP acquired enterprise storage partner 3Par after a short but intense bidding war with Dell, which eventually drove the price to $2.35 billion, or nearly four times its original market capitalization.

Bradley, for his part, was backed by the board in acquiring Palm, and mobility will be increasingly important in the future, the solution provider said. "He’s also done a great job taking the No. 1 position in PCs and improving margins," he said.

The solution provider does not expect either Livermore or Vyomesh Joshi (Vijay), executive vice president of HP's Imaging and Printing Group, to get the top post. "Those two have been passed over twice by the board in favor of Carly [Fiorina] and Mark [Hurd]," he said.

NEXT: An Important Decision To Make

Regardless of whom the board chooses, HP will have its hands full once its lawsuit against Hurd over potential disclosures of trade secrets is settled and Hurd is able to concentrate on building Oracle and competing against HP, the solution provider said.

"If Mark successfully joins Oracle, the whole IT dynamic will have shifted," he said. "HP will have gone from being in the driver's seat to really having to worry about being potentially marginalized. HP's biggest weakness is that it doesn't own a database and it has no 'real' applications. The two major powerhouses in applications are Oracle and SAP, and one of them is now an enemy."

Another solution provider, who also requested anonymity, said that either Donatelli or Bradley could fill Hurd's shoes.

"Ann Livermore? No," the solution provider said. "Lack of charisma."

Convery said the choice of leader is not about charisma. "It's about her knowledge and her channel friendliness," he said. "And she's really friendly with customers."

Don Richie, CEO of Sequel Data Systems, an Austin, Texas-based solution provider and longtime HP partner, said he would like to see Livermore get the CEO post.

"She has been through how many CEOs at HP and yet remained a constant and a stabilizing force," Richie said.

Richie said he has seen from working with Livermore how important the channel is to her, and how well she knows the business and all its aspects.

NEXT: HP Should Makes Its Decision Soon

"As far as charisma goes, that's in the eye of the beholder," he said. "I've seen her in one-on-one meetings. She's not as flashy as Carly. But she's very knowledgeable. And as far as comments about her being passed up before, I didn't see anything that showed she was a contender against Carly."

Actually, Richie said, he has a dream about how interesting it would be if someone further down the management chain at HP were jumped up to the top spot.

"Maybe someone like Adrian Jones, [HP vice president and general manager, enterprise storage and servers, Asia-Pacific and Japan]," he said. "Look at his enthusiasm. It would be nice to see someone from the ranks jump ahead, someone who knows how to get their feet wet. But I wouldn't hold my breath on that one."

Dave Butler, president of Enterprise Computing Solutions, a Mission Viejo, Calif.-based solution provider and HP partner, said that, in the end, any impact from Hurd's move to Oracle will depend not on Hurd, but on who HP taps to replace Hurd.

"I don't think any impact he has will be more than whoever they find to replace him," he said. "HP has a good management team. But if it doesn't find the right person to replace him, the real impact to HP will be his leaving. It's natural for HP to put the right person in charge. They did it last time with Mark Hurd."

Convery also said he hopes to see an internal pick at HP. "There's so much momentum going on now at HP," he said. "When you bring someone in, it takes 60 to 90 days to get going, just like what will happen with Hurd going to Oracle."