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Flummoxed IT giant Hewlett-Packard has hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to help it quickly and quietly find a new chief executive officer, after Mark Hurd resigned amid a sex and expense reporting scandal on 6 August.

The headhunting firm was established in 1956 and is a privately held partnership with expertise in consumer goods that expanded into technology, communications, and media in 1982 and followed up with life sciences, financial services, legal firms and non-profits, among other industries. The company found Louis Gerstner his top job at cookie maker RJR Nabisco, and was one of the two firms picked to find a replacement for flailing IBM CEO and chairman, John Akers, when IBM went aground badly and nearly went bankrupt in the early 1990s.

Ironically, it was Heidrick & Struggles, Spencer Stuart's arch-rival in headhunting, that placed Gerstner at IBM.

An upstart firm named Russell Reynolds Associates was the one that lured Hurd from NCR to take the top job at HP in 2005. It may or may not be significant that HP didn't go back to that well to find Hurd's replacement.

John Hammergren, an HP board member, was named chair of the executive search committee, which also includes Marc Andreessen (of Netscape fame), Lawrence Babbio (formerly in charge of telco giant Verizon), and Joel Hyatt (chairman of Current Media, a cable and satellite TV company).

"The Spencer Stuart team will be instrumental in helping us identify a CEO with the right leadership qualities to move HP into the next phase of growth," said Hammergren in a statement. "We look forward to conducting a swift, thorough and confidential search process, and accordingly we will have no further comment until we are ready to announce our new CEO."

How soon this will come to pass remains to be seen. It took headhunters only seven weeks to find and secure Hurd back in 2005, and this is the kind of pace Spencer Stuart needs to meet to calm jittery HP shareholders.

HP's interim CEO and current CFO, Cathie Lesjak, will be hosting the call with Wall Street after the market closes today to discuss the company's third quarter of fiscal 2010, and Andreesen will be backing her up.

Separately, HP has tapped a veteran IT reporter from Bloomberg News, Connie Guglielmo, to be vice president of corporate communications. She begins her new job on September 1.

Guglielmo inherits a PR mess and will be responsible for media and analyst relations and internal communications with HP employees. She reports to Michael Mendenhall, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at HP.

Guglielmo worked at Bloomberg News for the past seven years, managing a team of journos, and was the Silicon Valley bureau chief at Interactive Week and the executive news editor at MacWeek before that. She has a bachelors degree in political science form the University of California at Los Angeles and a masters in communications from Stanford University; both degrees will no doubt come into play. ®

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