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HP ousts Léo Apotheker, appoints Meg Whitman as new CEO

HP's board has removed the chief executive it appointed just short of a year ago, Léo Apotheker, and has appointed former board member Meg Whitman in his place.

The move comes as HP has plummeted in value following Apotheker's announced vision of spinning off the company's personal computer business and killing its fledgling webOS hardware line of tablets and smartphones it acquired from Palm last year to instead focus on enterprise software.

A year ago, Oracle's chief executive told the Wall Street Journal he was "speechless" that HP had appointed Apotheker, writing that "HP had several good internal candidates […] but instead they pick a guy who was recently fired because he did such a bad job of running SAP."

Oracle was embroiled in an infringement case with SAP and subsequently fought HP to subpoena Apotheker in the case. Ellison also hired HP's former chief executive, Mark Hurd, who Apotheker replaced, provoking HP to sue over the threat of Oracle gaining access to HP's secrets.

Ellison also took a shot at HP's board, noting "none of the HP board members own much HP stock so they have little to lose. But the HP employees, customers, partners and shareholders will suffer. “

“The HP board needs to resign en masse … right away," Ellison wrote. "The madness must stop." Ellison also compared HP's firing of Hurd to Apple's mistake in pushing Steve Jobs to leave the company in the mid 1980s.

HooPs

Instead, things just got worse for HP as Apotheker's software vision for the company discounted the company's core hardware businesses and prompted the expensive acquisition of Autonomy, an enterprise software business similar to the SAP Apotheker was familiar with running.

HP's chairman Ray Lane announced that the company's appointment of Whitman was "fortunate," saying, "we are at a critical moment and we need renewed leadership to successfully implement our strategy and take advantage of the market opportunities ahead.

"Meg is a technology visionary with a proven track record of execution. She is a strong communicator who is customer focused with deep leadership capabilities. Furthermore, as a member of HP’s board of directors for the past eight months, Meg has a solid understanding of our products and markets."

In February, blogger Mark Stephens, writing as "Robert Cringely," predicted that HP would soon oust Apotheker as a poor fit, suggesting Whitman as a prime candidate for his place, given that she was a failed candidate in her race to be California's governor.

"Then there’s Meg Whitman," Stephens wrote, "who expected at this point to have resigned from the HP board to spend all her time running California as governor. But that didn’t happen, so now what is she to do? You can only get so many pedicures. She’ll eventually get around to hip-checking Apotheker and taking his job."

HP now appears more likely to retain its Personal System Group building PCs, and although it has already begun laying off webOS engineers, making it unlikely that HP will bounce back into competition with Apple's iPad in the near term.