HP CEO Meg Whitman: “I Believe In Creative Destruction”


The New York Times has published a compelling profile on Meg Whitman, the current CEO of Hewlett Packard.  Before Whitman became the HP CEO, she attempted to run for governor of California and was the CEO of eBay.  Ms. Whitman believes that Wall Street does not quite get HP.  HP has a lot of promise in mobile devices, cloud computing, and Big Data.  “I believe in creative destruction,” said Ms. Whitman as quoted by The NYT.

“I believe in creative destruction,”

Ms. Whitman became rich by running eBay and she spent more money running as a candidate for public office in the nation’s history trying to become the governor of California.

When talking about her loss to Jerry Brown in the race, Whitman said “I left a little bruised.”  She added “It was hard, it was personally very hard.”  She endorsed John McCain for the 2008 election and that did not sit well with a lot of technology leaders including her own former boss eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.  Whitman spent around $140 million on her campaign, but she said it gave her thicker skin.  Whitman hosted a $25,000 per plate fund-raising event for Paul Ryan.  However she would not go into politics even if Mitt Romney, her former boss, at Bain offered her a job.

Last year HP posted revenues of around $127 billion.  HP employs around 320,000 people and has a network of manufacturers and computer resellers across 170 countries.  “In India, we have 60,000 people,” said Ms. Whitman.  There is a new program for selling printer ink in 87 countries and every 15 seconds, HP is turning out around 60 new printers, 30 PCs, and one powerful server.  HP’s revenue has fallen 5% though and the profit margins at IBM and Apple are several times higher than HP.  HP’s share price is sitting at $17, which is around the same of where it was at in 1995.  HP’s stock is down 24% since Whitman took over and the company spends around $4 billion per year on marketing.

Ms. Whitman changed the slogan of the company to “Make it matter” and she plans on unveiling her strategy at the company to Wall Street analysts this Wednesday.  Whitman believes that there should be restyled PCs whose screens break off so that it works as a tablet.  HP will also start building mobile devices.

“On Day 1 when she came here, she said, ‘Here’s the deal: I’m team oriented,’ ” stated HP head of server, storage, and networking David Donatelli.

Before Whitman was CEO of HP, her predecessors include Carly Fiorina, Mark Hurd, and Leo Apotheker.  Fiorina was named CEO in 1999 and she was the one that drove HP’s acquisition of Compaq.  Mark Hurd focused on cost-cutting at HP, but had resigned after being accused for inappropriate conduct with a female employee.  Ms. Whitman also wrote off Mr. Hurd’s $8 billion acquisition of Electronic Data Systems for $13.9 billion.  Leo Apotheker kept talking about how HP would stay relevant and after the company’s stock sank at a rapid pace under his leadership, he was out.

“She understands customers, business,” stated Silicon Valley investor and HP director Marc Andreessen. “While she’s not an engineer, at eBay she got schooled in how to talk to engineers.”  Andreessen was one of the executives that pushed for Whitman to become the CEO.  “Engineers running companies with 50,000 people or more just aren’t available,” added Andreessen.

“I’m the first C.E.O. in a long time who is from the Valley,” stated Whitman. “Carly, Mark and Leo weren’t.”  She added “I understand the speed you have to move.”

 

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