Speculation Mounts As To Who Will Fill Carly's Shoes

Now that she's gone, who will fill her shoes?

T.C. Doyle, Contributor

February 10, 2005

2 Min Read

Now that she's gone, who will fill her shoes?

She, of course, is Carly Fiorina, and the shoes are the soul of HP, the all-important position of CEO.

Although her departure was not altogether unexpected, it leaves a large void to fill, nonetheless. After all, Hewlett-Packard is not only technology's second-largest vendor, but it's also the industry's largest partner, especially in the SMB market where no company does as much business as HP does through third parties.

Unfortunately for HP, the search for a new CEO can neither be done in private nor in haste; the job is simply too important for that.

Early speculation would have an industry insider take the post, someone, say, like former HP COO and Fiorina partner Michael Capellas. He left HP shortly after it merged with Compaq and then resurfaced to take on one of the industry's toughest assignments--rebuilding a disgraced MCI (then WorldCom). Now that MCI is likely to be gobbled up by Qwest Communications, which has been superbly managed back from the brink by Dick Notebaert, luring Capellas back may be easier. But it's pure speculation.

So, too, are rumors and reports that Kevin Rollins, Dell CEO, and Ed Zander, Motorola CEO, would want the job. The former has spent the last several years stealing marketing share in PCs from HP while the latter made gains against it in servers at the time of the dot-com boom when he was at Sun.

Another individual who has done a remarkable job of turning around a tech giant is Ken Cron. On Wednesday, he officially handed over the reins of CA as planned to incoming CEO John Swainson, formerly of IBM.

Cron said whoever steps into the CEO slot needs to be a proven leader above all else.

"That person will need to be a team builder and leader. A company of that size is not managed by any one person but by an individual who can bring together talented people," Cron said. "At CA, we created teams--technology, research and business, etc.--in an effort to get team leaders to work cross-functionally. HP has the opportunity to be led by teams of people. HP has a great brand and limitless potential."

One concern about taking on the challenge of running HP is whether the company's board will approve a breakup of the company. Many outsiders have speculated that HP is worth more if broken up and sold into parts. Fiorina, of course, said no and, thus far, the board appears to be backing her strategy, at least. But holding that line may be off-putting to some potential CEO candidates.

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