Sep. 22, 2011 at 4:12 PM ET
Taking the wraps off one of the worst-kept secrets in Silicon Valley, Hewlett-Packard Thursday said Meg Whitman has been appointed chief executive officer, replacing Leo Apotheker after less than a year.
The company also said Ray Lane, a former president of Oracle Corp., would become executive chairman of the board of directors rather than non-executive chair.
“We are fortunate to have someone of Meg Whitman’s caliber and experience step up to lead HP,” Lane said in a statement. “We are at a critical moment and we need renewed leadership to successfully implement our strategy and take advantage of the market opportunities ahead."
HP said Apotheker, a former SAP executive whose hiring was announced by HP in September 2010, is stepping down as president, CEO and will leave the company's board of directors, HP said.
"I am honored and excited to lead HP," Whitman said in a statement. I believe HP matters – it matters to Silicon Valley, California, the country and the world.”
HP, considered the original Silicon Valley tech company, has been engulfed in turmoil for years, especially since the ouster of former CEO Mark Hurd last year in a scandal over his relationship with a female contractor.
More recently, the company has confused investors and consumers with a new strategy, jettisoning a TouchPad computing device after only a few weeks on the market and announcing plans to consider spinning off its personal computer division.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale University management expert, said the board had been wrestling with the CEO issue for three months, and he applauded the decision that came down Thursday.
"Meg is very good as a communicator," he told CNBC. "She's gotten better since her political campaign.... What she doesn't know about enterprise systems she is certainly going to learn."
He said the company made a smart move in giving increased executive responsibility to Lane, given his strong technical background and a history with Whitman that dates to her eBay days.
Rumors that Apotheker would be ousted in favor of Whitman, a billionaire former eBay chief executive who ran for California governor last year, began circulating Wednesday. It led to widespread hand-wringing in Silicon valley as well as questions of whether HP's board of directors is the "worst ever."
James Stewart of the New York Times reported that most of the 12 members of the board had not even met with Apotheker when he was hired.
But Sonnenfeld said the board has been "completely reconstructed" since then, including the addition of Lane. "They actually are doing the right thing now at long last," he said.
You can see the interview with Sonnenfeld here: