Shares of Hewlett-Packard, the biggest computer services company, jumped as much as 12 percent Wednesday after unconfirmed reports CEO Leo Apotheker might forced out.
HP shares were at $24.32 at midday, up $1.85, following reports by Bloomberg and AllThingsDigital directors were considering removing Apotheker, a former CEO of SAP of Germany, after a year in the job.
Speculation centered around director Margaret (Meg) Whitman, 55, the former eBay CEO and defeated Republican candidate for Governor of California, as a possible replacement. Whitman lacks a technical background. She has an economics degree from Princeton and a Harvard MBA.
Apotheker, 58, has been under pressure since HP announced lower-than-expected third quarter results last month. He also said the world's biggest PC maker would spin off the unit to shareholders and acquire British software developer Autonomy for $10.3 billion.
As well, Apotheker scrapped the HP TouchPad, a tablet designed to compete against Apple's iPad. He also said HP would consider the future of the Web OS, acquired when the company acquired Palm last year under former CEO Mark Hurd.
Hurd was forced out of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP after directors disapproved of expense accounting and other practices for a female consultant.
In the interim, CFO Cathie Lesjak was acting CEO. When Carly Fiorina was forced out as CEO in 2005, then-CFO Robert Wayman served as acting CEO.
Internal HP CEO candidates could include Ann Livermore, a director as well as former head of the company's enterprise services business; Shane Robinson, EVP and chief strategy officer, and Vyomesh Joshi, EVP for HP's massive printers business.