Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay is reportedly going to be named the new boss of Hewlett-Packard following the impending ouster of the much-maligned Leo Apotheker.
Whitman, who failed to become Republican Governor of California last year after spending tens of millions of dollars in the campaign, is a highly controversial choice to lead the troubled HP.
Peter Misek, an analyst at Piper Jaffrey, told CNBC on Wednesday (when Whitman’s accession was only a rumor), that she would make a decent interim chief.
“Meg Whitman – it’s probably the right move,” he said. “She’s an Internet pioneer – and the future of HP is based on embracing the Internet fully with their devices -- like Apple has. She would be a great interim step – and certainly we wouldn’t expect any violent surprises from her.
However, David B. Smith, chief investment officer of Rockland Trust Investment Management Group, in Rockland, Mass., told International Business Times that Whitman would be, at best, an adequate temporary solution.
“Her background is in the consumer space, not technology,” he said. “There are very different types of businesses. At the moment, I think HP is like a ship without a rudder.”
Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management, took a measured and cautious view of the Whitman selection.
“It’s not a ridiculous choice,” he told The New York Times. “But they could have done better.”
Other observers have a much harsher assessment of the potential Whitman selection.
In a research note, Collins Stewart analyst Louis Miscioscia wrote: “Whitman has not run a company the size of HP, nor one focused on the enterprise, both of which are concerns that are made more important by the fact that HP is in need of a turnaround in many lines of business, not just a new strategic direction.”
Charles House, chancellor of Cogswell Polytechnical College in Silicon Valley and an HP engineer, blasted the choice of Whitman. He told the New York Times that she would be an “unmitigated disaster. Her style is so arrogant it gags.”
Similarly, Roger McNamee, managing director of investment firm Elevation Partners, told the NY Times that “the notion that HP can be fixed by adding a celebrity chief executive is laughable.”
David Garrity, principal at GVA Research LLC, told Bloomberg Television that hiring Whitman would be downright “crazy.”
Whitman has a mixed record at eBay, which she took over in 1998 and ran for nine years. She oversaw rapid expansion of the internet auction site, ramping up annual revenues from $4-million to almost $8-billion.
She made at least one successful acquisition (online payment company PayPal) and one very bad deal (Internet phone Skype).
Since her departure in November 2007, eBay shares have gone nowhere.
Subsequently, her campaign for the California governorship was derailed by revelations that she knowingly hired an illegal alien as a housekeeper (in contrast to her anti-illegal immigration stance).
Tech analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group told the NY Times: “She was undone by her housekeeper. HP’s biggest problem right now is leaks from one or more disloyal employees. If Whitman can’t contain a housekeeper, it is unlikely she’ll be able to address this problem.”