Whitman: A Closer Look At HP's New CEO

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Meg Whitman has been the successful president and CEO of eBay and an unsuccessful candidate for California governor. Now she faces her next challenge as CEO of the world's largest IT company.

Margaret Cushing "Meg" Whitman, 55, Thursday was named president and CEO of HP, the $126 billion IT powerhouse based in Palo Alto, Calif. She replaces Leo Apotheker, who was fired by the board after 11 months on the job.

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Whitman rose to prominence as CEO of eBay, the online auction company that grew from 30 employees and $4.7 million in annual revenue when Whitman joined the company in 1998, to $7.67 billion in sales and 15,000 employees in 2007 just before she stepped down in March 2008.

But Whitman's success in the business world didn't carry over to the political realm. Although she easily won the Republican primary for California governor in 2010, she lost the general election to Democrat and former governor Jerry Brown -- reportedly after spending $140 million of her own money on the race.

Whitman was appointed to HP's board of directors earlier this year.

Before her stint at eBay, Whitman's resume includes executive level positions at toy-maker Hasbro Inc., florist FTD Inc., footwear manufacturer The Stride Rite Corp., The Walt Disney Co., and the Bain & Co. consulting company, according to her HP biography. She also served on the boards of directors at The Proctor & Gamble Co. (starting in 2003) and DreamWorks Animation SKG (starting in 2005) -- resigning from both in 2008 in preparation for her run for governor.

A common thread throughout most of Whitman's business experience is the focus on consumer products and entertainment companies. That's raising questions among industry observers and financial analysts about how prepared she is to run a major IT company like HP.

Typical is a posting on TheStreet.com: "She really doesn't have any relevant experience. A hardware, software and services company is a lot different from a consumer Internet company."

A native of Long Island, Whitman is a graduate of Princeton University (Class of 1977) and Harvard Business School (1979).

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