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HP names ex-SAP man to CEO, targets Oracle

by Scott Bicheno on 1 October 2010, 09:51

Tags: Hewlett Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), SAP

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Delphic decision

Computing giant HP has grabbed a name out of left-field as its new CEO. Léo Apotheker spent the majority of his career as a senior exec at German enterprise software giant SAP.

He was CEO of SAP from April 2008 to February of this year. He was the first commercial, as opposed to engineering, based person to be appointed SAP, and presided over a difficult period for the company, with it losing ground to its main rival - Oracle.

"Léo is a strategic thinker with a passion for technology, wide-reaching global experience and proven operational discipline - exactly what we were looking for in a CEO," said Robert Ryan, lead independent director of the HP board. "After more than two decades in the industry, he has a strong track record of driving technological innovation, building customer relationships and developing world-class teams.

"Léo has been a leader in anticipating the transformation taking place in our industry, and we believe he is uniquely positioned to help accelerate HP's strategy. He has demonstrated success in the U.S. market and also has vast international experience - which will be a major asset as HP continues to expand globally, particularly in high-growth emerging markets. HP has the right assets and market positions, and now we have the best team to realize the company's enormous potential."

It doesn't look like HP investors see things the same way, however. HP's shares were down a percent in regular trading yesterday and down nearly three percent after-hours. Apotheker resigned from SAP last February in response to the company's under-performance under his stewardship.

ZDNet got hold of his parting memo at the tim, and it reflects a CEO that had lost the trust and affection of his colleagues. "The pace of change was rapid, probably too rapid for some. My communication towards you was not always optimal and the results of the employee survey did not completely come as a surprise to me given what happened during the time of the survey," he said.

This is a bit of an ominous precedent as it's generally accepted that previous HP CEP Mark Hurd was ousted from the role due to his unpopularity with the ground-troops, and in spite of his positive effect on the bottom line. Given his pedigree, Apotheker's appointment indicates a greater emphasis than ever on enterprise - as opposed to consumer - business.

Of course Hurd joined Oracle soon after getting turfed out of HP, and just in case the brewing outright war between the two companies wasn't already fuelled enough, HP also announced the appointment Ray Lane as non-exec chairman of the board. Lane is a managing partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a leading VC organisation with an emphasis on tech.

KPCB was an early-stage investor in, among other companies, Sun Microsystems, which was acquired by Oracle last year. Prior to KPCB spent eight years, culminating as COO at, you guessed it, Oracle.


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