After Fiorina: Who's next?

HP is likely to look outside the company for a successor to Fiorina, observers say.

Almost as quickly as Carly Fiorina's tenure as chief executive officer (CEO) and chairman of the board at Hewlett-Packard (HP) came to an end, the speculation began about who may be plucked to replace her. The company announced Wednesday that the board has begun an "immediate" search for a replacement, and although Fiorina was the first CEO in HP's history to be selected from outside of the company, her replacement will probably be the second.

"Who should HP approach for the job? Our first choice would be former president Michael Capellas," wrote Merrill Lynch & Co analyst Steven Milunovich in a report published Wednesday. Capellas, the former head of Compaq Computer was made president of HP after the two companies merged, but he resigned in 2002, apparently in dissatisfaction with his new role. He is now the CEO of MCI.

The recruiter who brought Fiorina to HP in 1999, executive search firm Christian & Timbers Vice Chair Stephen Mader, believes HP's next CEO will most likely not be a technology titan such as Capellas. Instead, Mader expects that Fiorina's replacement will come from outside the technology industry.

It will be extremely difficult to find a technology executive with the experience and organizational ability to match the task at hand, he said. "The pickings in technology for the scale of this work are going to be very slim," he said.

Mader expects the company to recruit a CEO in the mold of Lou Gerstner, who came to IBM in 1992 with no technical background and engineered a turnaround. Gerstner took a sluggish company famous for its hardware and reshaped it as a flexible services provider.

The executive recruiter believes that HP will name a CEO quickly, within the next several months.

"HP needs resolution on key strategic issues. They can't continue to find themselves being speculated on," Mader said. "They need someone like Gerstner, who will come in and marshal the troops by saying to every third person, 'You don't agree with the strategy? You're fired.' "

First and foremost, HP will need a "hands-on detailed logician" who can "make the company run," said Roger Kay, an analyst with research company IDC.

According to him, such a candidate could very well come from within the industry, with rival PC vendor Dell being the most likely source of management talent. "The person that they're looking for is Kevin Rollins," he said. Rollins, recently promoted to the CEO position at Dell, is unlikely to be interested in the job, but the Austin, Texas, company has long roster of talented executives who may not be willing to wait for Rollins to step down, Kay said.

"They might be able to find somebody somewhere in the second-tier management at Dell," he said. "Dell has one of the deepest benches in the industry."

Although HP Director Patricia Dunn said Tuesday that she expected the company's next CEO to be selected from outside of the company, there are also at least two current employees who will merit consideration: Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HP's Technology Solutions Group, and Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of the company's Imaging and Personal Systems Group.

Livermore, a 23-year HP veteran who heads up the company's combined services and enterprise systems operations, was a top contender for the CEO job back in 1999. And while the enterprise division she has run has struggled to achieve profitability, Livermore is well-regarded within the company and could be a successor to Fiorina, analysts say.

Joshi has the better track record. He has run HP's highly profitable printer division since 1999, but like Livermore, he may face an uphill battle for the job. "I have the feeling that all of Carly's top management team is a little tainted," said IDC's Kay. "She articulated the grand strategy and then they were supposed to go and make it so, and they didn't quite do that."

Stacy Cowley in New York contributed to this report.

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