HP to oust CEO Apotheker, hire eBay's Meg Whitman

The board of directors — facing shareholder lawsuits and intensifying criticism from investors — is thrashing out a host of issues, including whether to name Whitman as the interim CEO, the source told Reuters. HP is trying to contain a crisis of credibility on multiple fronts, starting with its leadership. No decisions have yet been made about leadership, the source said.

If Apotheker is let go, he would be the third CEO in a row to be ousted by the board of the largest US technology company by sales. Investors seemed to approve of Whitman, a billionaire who joined HP’s board this year on an interim basis after a failed bid to become California’s governor.

Apotheker, former CEO of German business software maker SAP AG, was a surprise choice to replace the popular Mark Hurd, who was ousted last year after a scandal involving expense reports and a female contractor.

Before Hurd came Carly Fiorina — like Whitman, a candidate for California political office — whom investors blamed for betting on a sunset PC industry by buying Compaq. She was eventually fired by the board. HP’s latest chief is facing similar investor criticism. During his tenure, Apotheker slashed sales forecasts repeatedly, backtracked on promises to integrate Palm’s webOS software into devices, and struggled to halt a 50 per cent plunge in the share price.

Apotheker’s possible exit has been viewed by some as merely a matter of time. Chairman Lane had been taking a more visible role in the past few weeks, including accompanying the CEO to visit investors to communicate and clarify HP’s strategy.

Last week, he replaced Apotheker at an industry conference to defend HP’s change in strategy and clear the confusion that followed in the market. In August, HP again frustrated investors by killing off a much-touted line of mobile devices including the TouchPad and declaring it may spin off its massive PC division.

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