HP/Compaq: Friends battle for top prize

Who will lead the new HP? Compaq head Russell Hewitt, 46, and HP boss Barry Hastings, 48, won't say if they are in the running, saying regulatory authorities will take six to nine months to decide whether the merger proceeds.

Who will lead the new HP?

Compaq head Russell Hewitt (pictured left), 46, and HP boss Barry Hastings (right), 48, won’t say if they are in the running, saying regulatory authorities will take six to nine months to decide whether the merger proceeds.

Hewitt doesn’t have his CV updated and Hastings won’t say, adding that US chiefs may pick a complete outsider to head the $500 million merged New Zealand subsidiary. Both are bashful over the issue, just saying the merger is “exciting” and they work for “fantastic companies.

Hastings has been a boss for 20 years, 10 at HP. He has also worked in Saudi Arabia for Fletcher Challenge and for a Canadian pre-fab building company. His outside interests include being a member of the Business Roundtable, but he is “far too busy running HP” for much else. He also helps his wife grow olives at their 750-tree plantation on Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf. But he says olives won’t substitute for being HP head.

Hewitt has had spells at IBM, Computerland and joined Compaq in 1999 after the Digital merger. The father-of-three is also a director of TVNZ, the American Chamber of Commerce, Blue Star and Christchurch software company Forte Solutions. He is also a Roundtable member. He finds the time for all that through the support of his colleagues.

Both chiefs count the other as “a good friend”.

When Hewitt headed Computerland, he was often HP’s top reseller. And when Hastings briefly headed Toshiba, Hewitt was “a mentor”. While they fiercely compete against each other, the pair also work with each other on certain projects and meet socially.

“Russell and I are competitors but I am a firm believer that at the end of the day we can go to the clubhouse and have a beer,” Hastings says.

Let battle commence.

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