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Get Walter! Hewlett Jr. smeared to save Compaq merger

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If ever there was a moment when Silicon Valley's new money sought to bury the old, it came yesterday, with a classic assassination piece about Walter Hewlett, HP board member and the son of co-founder.

Both the Hewlett and the Packard families last week came out in opposition to the proposed merger with Compaq.

David Packard Jr found himself on the end of villification after his decision last week, with a Compaq member suggesting he was unfit to do his duty, and at the weekend HP has been working hard to discredit Hewlett Jr.

Citing a "source familiar with the board's actions", Hewlett Jr. is portrayed as a rich dilettante who'd rather attend the annual Bohemian Grove plutocrats gathering than attend a crucial HP board meeting.

"A lot of the board members felt he should have been at the meeting the day before and was wasting their time," cites the board-level source.

CNET also ran another piece - a sprawling affair bylined by no fewer than five writers - also citing an HP board-level "source" who bemoans Packard's opposition, and who suggests that all the current board members would depart if the merger with Compaq failed.

Whether the Get-Walter campaign is blessed by HP's official corporate PR operation or simply a private foray by a pro-Carly faction on the HP board we don't know. Perhaps Cupertino would like to tell us. The Bohemian Grove article features on the record no comments from HP flaks.

Dog eat Dog

But the use of class rhetoric is fascinating, particular for a company which not so long ago, would sooner asphyxiate than deploy bodyline bowling tactics against a competitor.

The WASP-ish, all-male Bohemian Grove Club to which Packard is said to be so devoted has been described as a frat boy network for middle-aged millionaires.

Speakers at the annual gathering have included Nixon, Kissinger and Nixon's former fixer and now Defense Secretary Rumsfield, leaders of the oil and defence industries, and a cast of free-market proselytisers. Paranoid conspiracy theorists have fingered it as one of the meeting places of the New World Order, but it's ludicrous enough as it is, cheers; you don't need a conspiracy to see that successful capitalists like to meet now and again to reassure each other how successful and clever they all are.

It's a social landmark, of a kind. That HP's current owners should turn on the old paternalism of the "HP Way" with such poison makes for ugly viewing. ®

Related Links

Bohemian Grove Action Network
The Bohemian Grove Club, by Alexander Cockburn

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