Hurd chosen to head HP

After reviving NCR Corp., Mark Hurd now has another reclamation project on his hands.

Hewlett-Packard Co.’s (HP’s) board of directors has selected him as the company’s new leader following the abrupt dismissal of Carly Fiorina earlier this year, according to multiple media reports Tuesday.

An HP spokesman refused to comment on the reports, which said the company would formally introduce Hurd later on Tuesday.

NCR issued a statement Tuesday confirming Hurd “has resigned, effective immediately, to accept a position with a large global technology company.”

Hurd is a 25-year veteran of NCR, a supplier of retail point-of-sale hardware and software. He was named president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Dayton, Ohio, company in 2003 after serving as head of the company’s Teradata division. Teradata provides data warehousing and customer-relationship management software to businesses.

His experience running a company with multiple businesses will serve him well at HP, said Sam Bhavnani, an analyst with Current Analysis Inc. in La Jolla, California. Hurd is also noted for his painstaking attention to operational efficiencies, a trait that helped him boost NCR’s stock (NCR) price from around US$10 in 2003 to Monday’s closing price of $37.90, he said.

NCR investors were certainly disappointed to lose Hurd, sending the company’s stock price down $5.62, or 14.8 per cent, on the news Tuesday that he had been picked for the top spot at HP. HP’s stock rose $1.30, or 6.6 per cent, in late-afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange following news of Hurd’s departure from NCR.

Hurd was on the short lists of many companies searching for new executives in recent months, said Umesh Ramakrishnan, vice chairman of New York executive search firm Christian & Timbers, the company that found Fiorina for HP in 1999. He described Hurd as a “solid citizen” who will focus on making HP run smoothly.

“If you look at the track record, he took a company that was floundering and took it around to where it’s a very healthy company. HP’s board is looking to him to do something similar here, because he’s had success executing on strategies,” Bhavnani said.

HP ousted Fiorina in February after revealing that she and the board of directors were at odds on how best to run HP. Fiorina was known as a visionary marketer who engineered the complex acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. in 2002. The deal was supposed to transform HP from a sleepy research and development firm focused on printers to a global technology conglomerate with leading market share positions in just about every segment of computer hardware.

Fiorina did create a technology powerhouse that could compete with Dell Inc. and IBM Corp., but she failed to deliver the promised returns to HP’s investors. She was also criticized for a hands-off approach to daily management and a refusal to name a chief operating officer to help her run the company.

Fiorina’s replacement will have a tough job. Aside from the company’s lucrative printing business, the $60 billion company has been struggling to find ways to make its business units profitable and the controversial acquisition of Compaq is now widely regarded as a failure.

Since Fiorina’s departure, HP has been run on an interim basis by the company’s chief financial officer, 36-year HP veteran Robert P. Wayman. In February, Wayman said the company’s next CEO would be “someone who will fit in the culture.” However, he added, “that doesn’t mean that you don’t want a leader that doesn’t challenge that culture.”

As an outsider, Hurd will have the freedom to make sweeping changes in operational procedures at HP, Bhavnani said.

Ann Livermore and Vyomesh Joshi are two internal candidates who had been considered top contenders for the job. Livermore, the executive vice president of HP’s storage, servers and services group had also been considered for the job before Fiorina was selected in 1999. Joshi, the executive vice president responsible for HP’s printing and imaging business, is considered one of the rising stars in the organization.

While Hurd is bound to make changes at HP, his ascension to the CEO position sends a strong message to financial analysts who have called for the company to spin off its PC business, said Roger Kay, vice president of client computing with IDC in Framingham.

“It basically says we’re not about breaking up this company, we’re about making it work,” Kay said.

HP’s board has long said that its differences with Fiorina were related to execution, not her acquisition strategy, but many financial analysts think HP should cut its losses in the PC business and get out, much like IBM Corp. did by selling its PC group to Lenovo Group Ltd.

HP clearly valued Hurd’s experience with NCR juggling hardware, software and services businesses at NCR when making its selection, and he will likely keep the company intact, Kay said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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