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Runner and riders for HP's top job

Who will succeed Mark Hurd at HP?

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Comment Who is next in line to become the new boss at HP, the company that likes its CEOs to shoot themselves in the foot?

Puritanical and whiter-than-white HP has forced its miracle-working CEO Mark Hurd out after tawdry accusations of sexual harassment, since settled privately, revealed inappropriate expenses claims by Hurd and meet-and-greet invoice payments for Jodie Fisher, the actress who lodged the harassment claim.

A board search committee has been set up, consisting of Netscape founder Marc Andreesen, Larry Babbio, John Hammergren and Joel Hyatt. The committee is looking for a new board chairman as well, since Mark Hurd filled that role. Lead Independent Director Robert Ryan is temporarily filling that position.

The search committee will look at both internal and external candidates. HP is, broadly speaking, a business making and selling printers, PCs, servers and networking products with a substantial but not gigantic EDS services business as well. Some sources are saying internal candidates are more likely as HP needs more growth, not redesigning with a new vision.

Where is that growth going to come from? The IT enterprise world is moving to converged IT stacks, a move kick-started by HP's ProCurve networking unit as its success prompted Cisco to release its UCS servers and join with EMC in the V-Block initiative. That would incline the search committee to look for someone with a broad understanding of HP's various businesses, who could command the respect of its many executives, drive the converged IT stack agenda forward and keep the PC and printer business leaders in their fields.

Printers are the responsibility of EVP Vyomesh Joshi, and represent a mature, solid and substantial niche business. It isn't going to add tens of billions to HP's bottom line.

The services business is run by Tom Iannotti, appointed in February. He reports to Ann Livermore, the EVP in charge of HP's enterprise business. Services, we could harshly say, are niche and not the growth driver for HP in the near term. Livermore looks after all of HP's enterprise business and has the experience and rounded responsibilities required, but was passed over for the top job when Mark Hurd was hired in 2005. Nevertheless she would appear to be a strong candidate.

David Donatelli reports to her and runs servers, storage and networking. He joined HP in April 2009, having been recruited from EMC to join Mark Hurd's team. It was quite widely supposed that he wanted the top job at EMC but CEO Joe Tucci wasn't about to move over. Is this his moment? Will he put himself forward, as a relative newbie and say he is the one who can best drive HP forward?

Livermore can be characterised as old-HP, pre-dating Hurd, having joined HP in 1982 and experienced the excitement of the Fiorina years. She knows HP through and through. Donatelli might say he is the new HP, and also seasoned by his two decades at EMC. Does he know HP well enough after less than 18 months in the job? He surely won't go if Livermore gets the top job but she might take a walk if he does, promoted from reporting directly to her to being her boss.

There must be a lot of CV polishing being done in various HP executive offices this morning and the search committee has quite a job in front of it. ®

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