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My vision of the board room discussion that led to Meg Whitman's installation as CEO
Reports have it that HP is gearing up to oust CEO Leo Apotheker after less than 11 months on the job and plans to replace him with none other than former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, revealing its strategy to replace Apotheker with a high-powered female tech CEO who survived the dot-com bust and went on to try her hand at conservative politics—who’s not Carly Fiorina.
Seems HP’s trying to go back to what it had before Leo Apotheker’s ill-fated appointment. I can only imagine what that board meeting must’ve been like… Did chairman Ray Lane stand up one day and say “you guys, it’s a total sausage fest in here! We need more girls!” Probably not (HP currently has five women on its board of directors). But it’s a funny thought…
So how did that conversation go? My guess is that it went a little something like this:
Ray Lane: “We need to stick with what we know. Apotheker was a dud. What was wrong with Mark Hurd?! He was a cool guy!”
Patricia Russo: “He was accused of sexually harrassing a female employee.”
Ray Lane: “Big deal! A little sexual harrassment never hurt anybody!” (In the interest of not being sued for libel, I should note that Ray Lane probably did not say this.) “Come on, people! Think! What did we have before Hurd?”
Marc Andreessen: “A girl.”
Ray Lane: “Good! Let’s go with that! We already have a women’s bathroom, we might as well get some use out of it. What else?”
Rajiv Gupta: “She was politically conservative.”
Ray Lane: “Right! I like where this is going. Anything else?”
Ann Livermore: “She ran for office in 2010 and lost.”
Ray Lane: “Brilliant! What about Hurd? What do we know about him?”
Gary Reiner: “He did a lot of good for the company but was booted after a public scandal that could’ve brought a lot of bad PR to the company.”
Ray Lane: “Perfect! Any names come to mind?”
John Hammergren: “What about Carol Bartz?”
Ray Lane: “Damn it, Hammergren—get out of my board room.”
(Hammergren packs up his iPad and slumps sheepishly out of the room.)
Ray Lane: “Crazy bastard… Come on, people! We need more than just a conservative female tech CEO! Besides, we’d probably end up spending most of our product development money on keeping a muzzle on Bartz. Ha, ha!” (Fist bumps all the guys at the table.) “So let’s get down to brass tacks. We need more than just a politically conservative female tech CEO. We need a politically conservative female tech CEO who left after a public scandal that threatened to bring bad publicity to the company and then ran for office in 2010 and lost. Do we know anybody who fits that bill?”
(There’s much mumbling at the table until a beam of heavenly sunlight falls on Meg Whitman.)
Ray Lane: (with tears in his eyes) “Dear God…we’ve found our new CEO.”
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