vendredi 23 septembre 2011

Everything that's wrong with American corporations, right here

We have three HP computers -- a laptop, a "tablet PC" with a swivel screen that pre-dates the iPad, and a kickass desktop that we bought a few months ago. HP makes nice machines, and we switched to that brand when Dell quality started to go downhill a few years ago.

I don't know if we'll be buying any moe HPs, though, because the people who run the company and its board of directors are among the biggest bunch of nincompoops ever to disgrace a boardroom:
Hewlett-Packard Co named former eBay Inc Chief Executive Meg Whitman its president and CEO, replacing the harshly criticized Leo Apotheker in a bid to restore investor confidence in the iconic Silicon Valley company.

The decision was made without a formal CEO search and piled renewed criticism on the board, which investors have blamed -- at least in part -- for the storied company's recent missteps.

Chairman Ray Lane, who becomes Executive Chairman with a mandate to help Whitman run a sprawling $120 billion empire with over 300,000 employees, tried to assure disillusioned investors by saying HP is making a fresh start with a new CEO and -- crucially -- a virtually revamped board of directors.

Lane vowed that the days of board dysfunction -- the wire-tapping scandal, the firing of Mark Hurd after a sexual harassment probe, and the hiring of Apotheker -- were over.

The board works well together, he said.

"It's amazing how they challenge the management team, challenge each other," Lane said in an interview. "They are smart, they bring great insight to the table and I think we make good decisions."

Analysts had speculated that Apotheker's departure might presage a backtracking on major decisions taken during his 11-month term and announced -- back to back in haphazard fashion -- on August 18. But HP reassured investors on a conference call the board will not reverse course.

"I don't think we ought to be going back in history. This board did not select Leo. This is not the board that was around for pretexting," Lane said, referring to the scandal in which HP hired investigators who impersonated its board members and journalists to obtain their phone records.

"This is not the board that fired Mark Hurd," he noted. "We are embarrassed about the communications of decisions that could have been done much better. But we carefully considered the decisions made. It is our operating execution that needs to improve."

Whitman, an Internet retail expert with a mixed track record, is not an obvious choice to revive HP, analysts said. The failed California gubernatorial candidate transformed eBay from a few dozen employees in 1998 into a global Internet retail powerhouse, but the final years of her reign were marked by sputtering growth, intensifying Wall Street criticism and a string of unwise acquisitions, including of Skype.

She has been an HP director about eight months. While her elevation surprised many with its seeming hastiness -- for the second time, internal candidates such as enterprise chief David Donatelli were passed over -- Apotheker's ejection had been a matter of time.

He becomes the third straight HP CEO shown the door.

Apotheker certainly seems to be a moron, what with his recent public musings that HP might sell off its personal computer business. But Meg Whitman, who received praise and accolades from turning eBay from a smallish business where you could buy and sell your stuff to other people who would actually pay you if you were selling, and send the goods if you were buying, into a massive free-for-all, where people can hijack your user ID and there is no way that you have to close the account if you owe them fifty cents in old seller fees and no way to pay the fifty cents in seller fees because they need a credit card to do it for all that they own PayPal and they will not accept a payment of less than a dollar, and then if you make a payment of a dollar they won't close your account because you have a credit balance, plans to continue Apotheker's strategies, perhaps because she doesn't know what the hell she's doing either. (Yes, this is a run-on sentence, and yes, this is a true story, and yes, this is my experience with eBay.) What did the Board do, draw straws among themselves to see who would be the new CEO?

This hasty, bonehead move has does not impress the people who actually know something about technology -- not Wall Street analysts who worship before the altar of star power, but in the tech circles, about how a once-great company is being run.

If the Board had wanted to use the Crony Method to choose a new CEO, here are some of their other members: Netscape founder and Mosaic inventor Marc Andreesen; former Verizon president Larry Babbio; and current HP Chairman and former Oracle president Ray Lane.

Looks like our next notebook PC will be a Mac.

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