HP hires headhunter to find replacement for Fiorina

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) has hired head-hunting firm Russell Reynolds Associates Inc. to help it find a new chief executive officer (CEO) following the departure last week of former chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina.

The search will be conducted with the “highest level of confidentiality,” HP said Thursday, adding that it will not comment further on the hunt for a new chief executive.

Fiorina’s sudden departure on Feb. 9, which was pinned on a disagreement with HP’s board over how to execute the company’s strategy, has led to wide speculation over who will replace her at the helm. HP’s chief financial officer, Robert P. Wayman, has taken over as CEO on an interim basis, while HP director Patricia Dunn became nonexecutive chairman. Wayman, who has been with HP for 36 years, also continues to fill his role as CFO.

Privately-held Russell Reynolds is headquartered in New York and has 32 worldwide offices, including one in San Francisco and one in Menlo Park, California, near HP’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters. It has helped find board members for U.K. mobile communications company mm02 PLC, and CEOs for companies such as Aetna Inc. and Bank One Corp.

The search for new executives at HP will be led by Russell Reynolds executives Andrea Redmond and Charles Tribbett, from the company’s CEO and Board Services Practice team, HP said.

Following Fiorina’s departure HP also named Patricia Dunn as its non-executive chairman of the board. Dunn has been an HP director since 1998. HP said it does not plan to make any additional structural changes or executive leadership changes for the time being.

When Firorina was let go last week HP indicated in a statement had indicated that the former CEOs departure stems from disagreements on company strategy. “While I regret the board and I have differences about how to execute HP’s strategy, I respect their decision,” Fiorina was quoted as saying in the statement.

According to Dunn, the board’s decision to replace its CEO did not signal a change of strategy, but rather a desire to accelerate that strategy. Wayman, who was also made a member of the HP board on Wednesday, added that no changes in the company’s product portfolio were expected.

Dunn had declined to give specific reasons for Fiorina’s dismissal. “We thought a new set of abilities was called for,” Dunn said. “We are looking to accelerate the growth of the company and we think that requires hands-on execution.”

With files from Stacy Cowley and Laura Rohde

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