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HP reported close to naming Hurd successor

An insider, or three, almost certainly

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Somebody has to stop Hewlett-Packard before it acquires another company for billions of dollars again, and the word on the street is that the IT giant is getting set to do that soon. Possibly as early as next week.

Bloomberg reported Friday that HP's board of directors could announce a successor to Mark Hurd, now co-president at rival Oracle, as early as next week. Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources familiar with the vetting process, said that the short list includes the obvious internal candidates but also includes some outsiders.

HP refused to comment on its succession plans.

Two weeks after giving Hurd the boot a $35m golden handshake to step down for doctoring his expense reports to cover payments to contract worker and official HP greeter Jodie Fisher, HP hired headhunting firm Spencer Stuart to help it comb the boardrooms of the world for a replacement for Hurd.

Interestingly, HP's replacement news announced came on the same day that veteran IT reporter Connie Guglielmo, formerly of Bloomberg, had been tapped as vice president of corporate communications, beginning her new job on September 1. (Funny how Bloomberg has this scoop today, eh?)

Two weeks ago, Cathie Lesjak, HP's chief financial officer and interim CEO, said the company was looking at candidates from inside and outside of the company. But you have to figure HP, at this point, is allergic to outsiders.

Ann Livermore, who runs HP's $54bn enterprise business unit is the obvious top contender for the CEO job, despite being passed over when Carly Fiorina was brought in from Lucent Technologies in 1999 and one more time when Hurd got the job.

David Donatelli is on the short list, too, but having just taken over HP's enterprise servers, storage and networking business, they have the right person in the right job there. Also, he is a newbie to HP, coming over from EMC last year. Donatelli has to prove himself, and there are plenty of people who think that paying $2.4bn for 3PAR doesn't prove Donatelli is the right person for the job, but quite the opposite.

Vyomesh Joshi, who runs HP's imaging and printer group profit center, and Todd Bradley, who runs personal systems, are on the short list of HP insiders vying for the job. Bradley has only been at HP for three years, having come over from Palm, where he was the CEO. That gives Joshi the upper hand.

What seems most likely is that there will not be one executive to replace Hurd, but rather three: one for chairman, one for CEO, and one for president. An outsider could be brought in to be chairman of the board, with two HPers chosen for the CEO and president jobs. Livermore for CEO and Joshi for president, being the real insiders at HP, seems most likely if that is what the board is thinking.

As for chairman, the most obvious choice is to bring back Scott Stallard, who used to be in charge of servers and storage before Donatelli was brought in. Stallard was hired by HP in 1975 as an engineer and worked his way up through the ranks to manage research and systems development.

In the wake of the Compaq merger in 2001, Stallard was running HP's server businesses and was put in charge of the whole systems ball of wax. Like William Hewlett and David Packard, who founded the company that bears their name, Stallard got his master's degree in engineering from Stanford University and has solid Silicon Valley street cred.

Whatever HP is up to with appointing the successor or successors to Hurd, one thing is for sure. It would be best to grab some headlines next week when Hurd and his tennis buddy, Oracle CEO and co-founder Larry Ellison, are trying to dominate the headlines from their OpenWorld extravaganza in San Francisco, California. ®

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