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HP fires Apotheker as channel resentment grows

Apotheker is sacked after less than a year at HP, Meg Whitman to take over

HP fires Apotheker as channel resentment grows
Many partners were puzzled when HP hired Apotheker in September 2010.

HP has sacked president and CEO Leo Apotheker less than a year after picking him to succeed Mark Hurd.

HP's board of directors appointed one of its own, Meg Whitman, to replace him. Whitman, the former president and CEO of eBay, joined the HP board earlier this year.

"We are fortunate to have someone of Meg Whitman's calibre and experience step up to lead HP," said Ray Lane, who moved from non-executive chairman to executive chairman of HP's board, 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. Meg is a technology visionary with a proven track record of execution. She is a strong communicator who is customer focused with deep leadership capabilities. Furthermore, as a member of HP's board of directors for the past eight months, Meg has a solid understanding of our products and markets."

Apotheker also resigned his seat on the board, the PC powerhouse said.

This should bring a smile to HP solution providers who are displeased with the uncertainty created in August when HP unceremoniously disclosed that it is considering a sale or spin-off of its $42 billion Personal Systems Group (PSG), a revelation that partners say has put channel deals in jeopardy. Some are also disgruntled over HP's move to pull the HP TouchPad tablet from the market after just six weeks.

Some HP partners are downright excited that Apotheker is no longer with HP.

Many HP partners were puzzled - and in some cases, disappointed - when HP hired Apotheker in September 2010.

Some openly questioned whether Apotheker would maintain Hurd's laser focus on the channel, noting that he hadn't distinguished himself as a channel-savvy leader during his 20 year career at SAP.

In fact, SAP's hybrid direct-indirect sales model was a major source of frustration under Apotheker's leadership at the software company, several SAP partners said last year.

Indeed, HP's decision to kill the TouchPad just six weeks after its launch sent shockwaves through the channel. HP had been aggressively positioning the tablet, and WebOS, as major services drivers for partners, and many channel partners had made the decision to invest in building mobility practices.

But HP's decision to explore a spin-off or sale of PSG came as an even bigger surprise, particularly for longtime partners.

Salim Ziade, regional general manager, PSG, HP Middle East, said in an interview with Channel Middle East in August that the majority of the partners that the PSG unit has reached out to have expressed positive sentiments and confidence in the PC business in the region and their willingness to continue working with HP during this period of transformation.

"The HP board's decision to ‘evaluate strategic alternatives' for the PSG business is not an indication to shutdown the $42 billion business. We made $2 billion in profits last year and we are still the number one PC vendor in the world," he said.

Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer at Jacky's Electronics, an HP power retailer in the Middle East also told Channel Middle East in August that the decision to consider spinning off PSG came as a surprise especially since the HP brand is strong in the Middle East geography. "It's no secret that HP has been our biggest partner for laptops," he said.

Soon after joining HP, Apotheker declared his intention to build HP's services and software capabilities. But HP's decision to bid $10.3 billion to acquire Autonomy, a developer of information management and infrastructure software, has triggered a near-revolt with investors who believe HP is grossly overpaying for the Cambridge, UK-based outfit.


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