Former Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) Chief Executive Officer Leo Apotheker, who was fired by the board today, was unaware that his standing as CEO was being questioned until the news first broke yesterday, according to a person close to the situation.
Apotheker was preparing to discuss strategy at today’s board meeting, said the person, who asked not to be named because the matter is private. Instead, the directors replaced him with former EBay Inc. (EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman, who is on the board.
The directors had been concerned about the stock price and its lack of improvement under Apotheker’s leadership, a person close to the situation said. Some top Hewlett-Packard executives also opposed the $10.3 billion acquisition of Autonomy Corp., a deal pushed by Apotheker, according to the person.
Under Apotheker, who became CEO in November, Hewlett- Packard lowered sales forecasts three times and made jarring strategy shifts. Before yesterday, when Bloomberg first reported that he may be fired, the company’s stock had plunged 47 percent on his watch. “Investor exasperation” with management is at its highest in more than a decade, according to Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
Hewlett-Packard shares surged 6.7 percent yesterday on speculation that Apotheker would be replaced. At the time, Whitman was seen as a possible interim CEO, people familiar with the matter said. Today, the company named her as its permanent leader, along with switching Ray Lane from nonexecutive chairman to executive chairman.
Hewlett-Packard shares fell $1.18, or 4.9 percent, to $22.80 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.
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