HP’s New Leader Hurd Called ‘the Anti-Carly’

Even before the news was officially announced by Hewlett-Packard yesterday, the speculation had begun on the wisdom of the company’s choice of NCR’s Mark Hurd as its new CEO.

Hurd, 48, who resigned his position has president and CEO after a 25-year career at NCR, will take over the spot Carly Fiorina was asked to leave in February.

Operational Know-How

Hurd is seen as a laid-back manager with a strength for the operational side of business, quite the opposite of Fiorina, known for her love of the limelight and charismatic, forceful ways. Hurd joined NCR, a computer services company known well for its ATM machines, in 1980. One analyst called him “the anti-Carly.”

“The hire surprises me,” Jon Oltsik, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, told the E-Commerce Times. “I thought HP might go with an HP veteran or at least a technology veteran with a strong track record of success with a visible profile.”

While HP may have been seeking someone whose personality would meld more with the culture, Oltsik said he believes Hurd may be too far removed from what the struggling IT firm needs.

Challenges Ahead

“HP still has some real marketing challenges to overcome, even in its strong brands. There is a hybrid between HP culture and Carly and they defaulted too far,” he said. “He’s got to combine good strategy moves with marketing and schmoozing the company.”

Hurd spent the morning on a conference call with analysts. Speculation is rife that he may choose to split off HP’s most profitable unit — its printer business — a move Oltsik said he believes is the right thing to do. So far, Hurd has held back from discussing his strategy for the company’s future. He did say his first order of business would be to meet HP staff and learn how the business units operate.

Hurd took NCR’s chief executive reins in March 2003 and was able to turn the company around by boosting margins and cutting jobs and costs. He faces the additional challenge of moving from a company with about US$7 billion in revenue to an $80 billion one, or as ESG’s Oltsik put it: “NCR to HP is like Toledo to New York City; it’s just different levels.”

Taking Care of Business

Michael Dortch, principal business analyst, Robert Francis Group, said that early on, Hurd must do whatever he can to “shore up and reassure HP’s eroding, uncertain enterprise client base.”

Specifically, he’s got to do and say things that make HP’s enterprise clients certain the company is in the enterprise IT business for the long haul,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “That includes OpenView, servers and services. HP faces growing competition in all three areas, and every additional minute of uncertainty could mean significant lost revenues and credibility.”

As to whether Dortch believes Hurd will be the answer to all HP’s problems, he said: “If he can cash the checks numerous industry mouths have been writing about him since his announced ascension, he could be the best thing to happen to HP since digital photography exploded the consumer printing market.”

Hurd will earn $1.4 million a year pluses bonuses and stock options under the terms of his four-year pact with HP. He will also receive a $2 million signing bonus within 30 days of his first official day on the job, this Friday, April 1.

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