HP Partners Optimistic Whitman Can Right The Ship

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New Hewlett-Packard President and CEO Meg Whitman doesn't come to the company with deep industry expertise in hardware or software, but HP channel partners are nonetheless excited about what she potentially brings to the table in terms of leadership.

HP Thursday named Whitman to replace Leo Apotheker as president and CEO, just 11 months after installing him in the post.

"She has a record of success at many levels of leadership, she is a respected business leader. She understands economics and politics. There is not much more you could ask for in someone to lead your company," said David Dadian, CEO of Powersolution.com, a HoHoKus, N.J.-based solution provider.




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John Gunn, president of ISG Technology, a Columbia, Mo.-based solution provider, said what HP needs most right now is a CEO with new perspective and a willingness to listen to partners and customers, something he says was sorely lacking under Apotheker. "I think Whitman will be a good choice because she's been on the sidelines and comes to HP with a new outlook," said Gunn. "I think she'll be able to articulate the cloud strategy that HP desperately needs."

Whitman lost a bid in 2010 to become the governor of California. Prior to that, she ran online auction house eBay for a decade, and previously held executive positions at DreamWorks, Procter & Gamble and Hasbro. Her post at HP represents her inauguration to both enterprise IT sales and dealing with the IT solution provider channel.

Some of channel partners' optimism about Whitman's hiring no doubt stems from the turmoil that Apotheker leaves behind. That's understandable: HP's handling of two shockers last month – the potential spin-off or sale of its Personal Systems Group and the speedy demise of its TouchPad tablet – still have many partners scratching their heads, as does the high price tag on HP's $10.3 billion bid to acquire Autonomy. And Apotheker never cultivated a strong reputation as a channel-savvy leader, solution providers said.

But in hiring Whitman, a sitting member of HP's board, HP is once again passing over qualified internal candidates and bringing in an outsider. Prior to Apotheker's appointment, HP's Toddy Bradley and Ann Livermore were considered as potential candidates for the CEO position.

Nevertheless, there is a sense among HP channel partners contacted by CRN that fresh eyes are exactly what’s needed to help pull HP out of the muck in which it’s currently mired.

Michael Haley, president of Edge Solutions, an HP Elite partner in Alpharetta, Ga., believes that Whitman can bring a fresh approach that will benefit HP. "She is admired for her outstanding leadership skills, and it is refreshing whenever a woman becomes a CEO of a Fortune 100 company,” Haley said, calling the board’s move to install Whitman “an admirable decision.”

Whitman is the second woman to sit in HP’s CEO chair, following Carly Fiorina, who held the post from 1999 to 2005.

NEXT: HP Board Not Blameless

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