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HP names former SAP boss Apotheker CEO

Hewlett-Packard has named veteran computer software executive Leo Apotheker as its new CEO.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Hewlett-Packard Co. has hired recently discarded software executive Leo Apotheker to steer the world's largest technology company as it tries to prove it can thrive without its previous leader, Mark Hurd.

Thursday's announcement ends HP's nearly two-month search to fill its top post. It has been empty since HP's board ended Hurd's five-year reign as CEO amid allegations of sexual harassment and deceptive expense reports.

Apotheker will get an annual salary of $1.2 million, a $4 million signing bonus and restricted shares in the technology company. Hewlett-Packard Co. said Friday that the 57-year-old Apotheker will also be eligible to receive cash incentives if the company meets certain performance goals each year.

Hurd's ouster wasn't well-received on Wall Street, causing the company's stock to plunge more than 15 percent in the weeks after his departure. The backlash intensified the pressure to find a CEO that would inspire investor confidence.

The initial response to Apotheker's appointment was icy. HP shares fell $1.28, or 3 percent, in extended trading after finishing Thursday's regular session at $42.07, down 46 cents.

Apotheker, 57, spent most of his career at business software maker SAP before being promoted to CEO in April 2008. He lasted less than two years in the position. SAP decided not to renew his contract when it expired nearly eight months ago, largely because SAP's financial performance hadn't been living up to investor expectations.

Since leaving SAP, Apotheker said he has been enjoying some time off and consulting with companies. He is scheduled to take over HP's helm Nov. 1.

Although it's a large company, SAP's emphasis on business software means it has a much narrower focus than HP. Carrying out a strategy crafted by Hurd, HP is trying to build upon its leadership in personal computers and printers by expanding into technology services, data storage and security.

In a Thursday interview, Apotheker said he would start off with a "listening tour" and rely heavily on HP's current management team to help him get a better handle on a company that employees more than 300,000 people.

"HP has such a broad portfolio of products that I don't think there is a single human being on the planet that would know them all and be an expert in all of them," Apotheker said.

SAP also is based in Germany, creating the potential for some cultural adjustments as Apotheker tries to adapt to HP ways that have been shaped during a 71-year history in the free-wheeling Silicon Valley.

HP's board is confident it found the right man for the job.

"Leo is a strategic thinker with a passion for technology, wide-reaching global experience and proven operational discipline — exactly what we were looking for in a CEO," said Robert Ryan, the lead independent director on HP's board.

HP also named another candidate for the CEO position, Ray Lane, as its non-executive chairman.

Lane, 63, is currently a partner at renowned venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, but he is best known in Silicon Valley as the former chief operating officer at SAP rival Oracle Corp.

Although he was hailed for helping Oracle recover from an accounting scandal, Lane was dumped by the company's mercurial CEO, Larry Ellison, a decade ago.

In an ironic twist, Ellison hired Hurd as his top lieutenant after publicly blasting HP's board for forcing him out of his job.

Lane said he doesn't get any special satisfaction from chairing the board of a company that is increasingly competing against Oracle.

"It's irrelevant," Lane said. "Oracle is a partner and a competitor, just like IBM, just like SAP. I think we are going to have the same relationship with have with Oracle as we have with everyone else."

Apotheker's selection as CEO comes as a surprise. Most analysts expected to hire from within after going with two outsiders who clashed with the board. Before Hurd arrived, HP had been run by Carly Fiorina, now a Republican candidate for Senate.

HP's CEO slot is one of the most coveted and troubled in the technology world. Apotheker is the third CEO HP has had in the past decade.

Hurd was pushed out in August after a five-year reign in which he slashed costs — including cutting 50,000 jobs — and bought scores of companies to reduce HP's dependence on its cash-cow printer ink.

The company is now a player in technology services, where it competes with IBM Corp., computer networking, where it competes with Cisco Systems Inc., in addition to PCs and other technologies.

Hurd was revered on Wall Street, as HP's market value nearly doubled under his watch. But he ran afoul of HP's ethics policies, which he tightened after a scandal four years ago involving HP's board spying on the phone records of journalists and board members.

The former CEO was found to have submitted inaccurate expense reports for his dinners with an HP marketing contractor, Jodie Fisher. She accused Hurd of sexual harassment, which kick-started an investigation by HP that uncovered the expense reports. Hurd insists he didn't prepare his own reports, and that Fisher's name wasn't intentionally left off any of them.

Fisher and Hurd settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. Hurd fought with the board over its decision to publicly disclose the claim, even though it found no evidence of sexual harassment.