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 user 2005-03-12 at 10:59:00 am Views: 162
  • #10825

    Handicapping the HP Hopefuls

    Techdom’s top names are popping up as the search to replace Carly
    hits overdrive

    Hewlett-Packard Co.’s  search for a new
    chief executive — only the sixth permanent chief in the tech giant’s 66-year
    history — is gathering momentum. A successor to former CEO Carleton S. Fiorina
    could be named as early as the end of March, just seven weeks after Fiorina was
    forced out. And as the list of candidates narrows, at least one surprising name
    has popped up. Richard E. Belluzzo, a longtime HP exec who now runs data-storage
    company Quantum Corp. , has emerged as “a strong candidate,” according to two
    sources close to the search.

    The list of candidates remains in flux, but
    a number of high-powered execs have been approached. Sources familiar with the
    search confirm that other names include 3M Chief Executive W. James McNerney
    Jr., Intel  Executive Vice-President Sean M. Maloney, Symantec  CEO John
    Thompson, and John Joyce, IBM  senior vice-president of global services. These
    executives say they are not interested in the HP job, but the board continues to
    vet potential candidates, with would-be CEOs presenting proposals about

    Finding the right candidate fast is critical. Often such
    searches take three to six months. But the company has little time to waste as
    it struggles to improve internal execution and stem losses to rivals Dell Inc. 
    and IBM. Since the start of 2004, HP’s stock is down 8%, trailing nearly every
    competitor, while Dell’s price has soared 20% during the same period. Even if a
    new CEO is named by the end of March, it could take months to settle on a firm
    agenda for reviving the company. “You’d have to get into the trenches of this
    company for six months to figure out a plan that will win,” says Jeffrey
    Christian, the executive recruiter who spearheaded the search that brought in
    Fiorina in 1999.

    Belluzzo be the right man for the job? The 51-year-old executive certainly knows
    HP’s businesses and culture. After joining HP as an accountant in 1975, he
    earned the nickname “Rocket Rick” as his operations and distribution skills
    propelled him to the top of company’s printer and computing businesses. Known
    for his hard-working ways, he executed the plan of mentor Richard A. Hackborn,
    an influential HP director, to make the company a powerhouse in high-volume
    consumer markets. While he was deemed the company’s heir apparent before he left
    for the CEO job at Silicon Graphics Inc.  in 1998, some say his focus on
    commodity products led to the decline of HP’s corporate computing

    Belluzzo’s post-HP track record, moreover, has been lackluster. His
    efforts to turn around Silicon Graphics foundered after a move to Windows-based
    servers failed to work; that was followed by a rocky stint as the No. 3 at
    Microsoft Corp. Since becoming chief executive of Quantum in 2002, Belluzzo has
    earned kudos for cost-cutting and crafting a new game plan for the data-storage
    company. Still, the company’s stock has inched up just 3% during his tenure.
    Belluzzo did not return numerous calls seeking comment, and an HP spokesman
    declined to discuss the search.

    Whoever steps into the corner office
    obviously will face a challenging task but will have some room to maneuver.
    Despite calls from Wall Street to break apart the company, HP’s board has
    publicly stated that it expects the new chief executive to manage businesses
    ranging from digital TVs to tech services. But one candidate who spoke with the
    board said the internal message isn’t so inflexible. The board is open to
    considering strategic options, such as spinning off the PC unit or the printer
    division. An HP insider adds that while it’s unlikely they will hire someone
    pushing a spin-off, HP is “open to discussion over strategy.” Whichever big-name
    exec that turns out to be, the key is finding the right fit — the faster the