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HP arranges boardroom deck chairs as The Big Split looms

Two sets of directors, twice the potential for screw ups?

Titanic sinking

HP has confirmed the captains of industry who will sit on the two boards formed when the organization splits in two. The IT giant will pull in execs from sectors ranging from automotive and clothing to private equity.

The organization operationally splits this month. By 1 November, HP will legally separate to become HP Inc (PCs and printers) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (the rest of the portfolio).

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

HP Enterprise will be run by today's HP boss Meg Whitman, and will be chaired by Pat Russo, who was given a seat on the board in 2011 and is lead independent director.

Eleven others will take seats at the top table of HP Enterprise. Five of them are new to HP.

Former HP exec Anne Livermore will remain in residence, as will Marc Andreessen, co-founder of property investment biz AH Capital Management LLC, former Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie, and ex-HP man Ray Lane.

New faces include Dan Ammann, president of General Motors, Michael Angelakis, former chairman and CFO at Comcast, Leslie Brun, CEO at Sarr Group, Pam Carter, ex-president at Cummins Distribution, and Lip-Bu Tan, chairman at Walden International.

HP Enterprise is facing its fair share of challenges, including the shift to cloud computing, fewer big ticket outsourcing deals, flat lining or declining hardware sales, and a software business that had struggled for mind share internally. Not to mention, getting the most out of Autonomy, a costly acquisition that was rubber stamped by HP's current board.

The company feels that by splitting, it can make decisions more quickly in terms of strategy, investments, and structure.

Russo claimed in a statement that HP wants two boards with the "most experienced, global-minded and diverse members we could find... in addition to the collective business acumen, the new board members have worked in more than a dozen countries around the world."

HP Inc

On the other side of the house, at HP Inc, Whitman will become chairwoman of the board of directors with eleven members grabbing a seat.

New members include Dion Weisler, CEO of HP Inc, Carl Bass, CEO at Autodesk, Charles "Chip" Bergh, president and CEO at Levi Straus, and Subra Suresh, president at Carnegie Mellon University.

It seems there was no seat on either the HP Inc or HPE boards for current member James Skinner. He is the only individual to resign.

Shumeet Banerji, CEO at Booz & Company, Robert Bennett, managing director at Hilltop Investments and CEO at Liberty Media Corp, and Rajiv Gupta, former chairman and CEO at Rohm and Haas Company are to be the only HP Inc board people that sit on HP's board currently.

HP has a slightly different set of problems to solve with Inc – how to balance volumes while targeting profitable PC sales in a shrinking sector; making the most of customers' move to print services; trying to establish a lead in 3D printing and immersive computing; and building smartphones shipments worldwide.

This is now the second straight summer that HP hasn't created a balls-up that could have been avoided had the existing board been more, well, on the ball. Think ex-CEO Mark Hurd's scandellous exit, then Mad Leo Apotheker's short reign, or the multi-billion dollar write down. Of course, there is still time to help make silly season less silly for journalists.

No doubt investors will hope that the new faces bring balance to the force. ®

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