In defense of Carly, sort of

Rob Hof

You might think the executive search firm that placed now-ousted CEO Carly Fiorina at Hewlett-Packard would be hiding under a boardroom table right now. Hardly. Stephen Mader, vice chair at Christian & Timbers, took some time this morning to talk about HP's move--and offered a good idea of whom the next CEO won't be. ...

Mader says HP's board won't look inside for its next leader. Why? The only person there with a certified successful business is Vyomesh (VJ) Joshi, who has headed the printer division and now is in charge of both printers and personal computers. But that business has little in common with the rest of HP's corporate-oriented businesses. And the heads of those other businesses have little credibility because they're not doing that well.

So who's on the radar screen? Mader, who declines to say whether his firm is in the new hunt, also won't name names. But he says it's likely to be someone outside tech. "If you go to the tech domain, there aren't many people out there" who have run such a large, diverse business. Assuming the board isn't intent on breaking up HP, that could mean someone from a diverse company such as General Electric, or maybe a packaged-goods giant. In other words, they'll be looking for the next Lou Gerstner, whose lack of knowledge of computers obviously didn't hurt now-resurgent IBM a bit.

Was Fiorina a bad choice for HP? No surprise, Mader doesn't think so, though he does acknowledge her shortcomings. "No matter what else you think of Carly, she did change HP," he told me. "She did get 'em to a place where they can fight another war." And that's surely what the next CEO will have on his or her hands.

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