Who should be the next HP CEO?
Survey of C-level executives finds IBM and HP execs are likely candidates
Boston, MA, August 2010 – What do C-level tech-sector execs and members of the Private Equity community think about who ought to succeed Mark Hurd at HP?
Cook Associates Executive Search asked over 1000 top executives about their thoughts on who should be the next leader of the world’s largest technology and services company. Some of the findings were predictable, while others were surprising.
One key finding was that of the 20 largest public companies based on market capitalization, only six were represented on the list. When asked why this was significant, Seth Harris, EVP and Managing Director of the Technology Practice at Cook Associates said “I am left wondering what lessons the tech sector learned from the notable success of Lou Gerstner, who had no previous tech industry experience. He was one of the most successful CEOs of his time.”
The most frequently cited companies outside of HP from which the next CEO should come were Apple, Boeing, Dell, EMC, IBM, Motorola, and Oracle. In particular, nearly 43% of respondents felt the most qualified person to lead HP would be internal (from HP) or from IBM. Jeff Leopold, Managing Director at Cook Associates commented “The wisdom of the crowd suggests that HP’s current strategy is sound and that an internal executive would be the most able to keep the company on its path. IBM’s significant presence on the list was to be expected.” Harris added, “There are few companies in the tech sector other than IBM that match the scale scope, and complexity of HP.”
Just over 11% of respondents proffered the names of female execs as the next leader. Harris said, “Women continue to play a prominent role in the tech sector. Had we conducted this research when Gerstner retired in 2002, I doubt the number would have been in the double digits.”
While the executives solicited were all based in North America, most had extensive European and Asian business operations exposure. Yet very few European or Asian execs were cited. Leopold suggested, “With its extensive operations outside North America, I would think an international executive from an company like Philips, General Electric, or Samsung would be worthy of consideration.”
A large contingent—25%—believes an existing HP executive or Board member would be the best choice. The most frequently cited executive at HP to lead the company was Todd Bradley. Harris opined, “Bradley could indeed be a logical choice. With stints at General Electric, FedEx, and Palm prior to his leadership role at HP, he has the breadth of operating experience to run HP. Plus, while he understands HP’s culture, he has not spent his entire career at HP as was the case for some of the other HP names suggested.”
Perhaps the most jarring insight from the survey results was that Mark Hurd was tied for second place with Ann Livermore among the HP execs cited to be next CEO of HP. Respondents who picked Hurd frequently questioned the HP Board’s judgment in terminating him.
Leopold, who leads Cook’s Board Director practice, noted the importance of succession planning. “It’s crucial for every public company to have a documented plan in place so it can avoid shareholder concerns.”
At one point last week, HP had lost over $10B in market cap, due in some portion to the leadership vacancy.
About the Technology Practice: The Technology Practice at Cook Associates Executive Search has a track record of identifying inspiring leaders and partnering with organizations around the globe to build exceptional management teams. Our search consultants have personally held prior operating roles in general management, sales and marketing and understand the inner-workings of high technology companies. Their relationships with multi-nationals, venture capital investors, and global leaders in private equity provide an expanded network and unparalleled access to senior executives. Click here to learn more about the Technology Practice.