Meg Whitman: Next Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO is already on the payroll

Failure rate 'very high' when hiring outside leaders

Canalys Channels Forum Meg Whitman this week refused to say when she'll quit as chief exec of HP Enterprise – the chunk of HP that will split away from the other half that makes printers and PCs.

However, she did indicate that HP Enterprise's next top boss will almost certainly be appointed from the company's ranks, rather than parachuted in from outside.

HP will split into HP Inc and HP Enterprise on November 1: Whitman will be chief exec of HP Enterprise, and chairwoman of HP Inc. She told analysts at last month's HP shareholder meeting that she'll remain at the helm of HP Enterprise for "a while."

At the Canalys Channels Forum in Barcelona this week, Channel Register asked Whitman to be more specific about her timetable of departure from the HP Enterprise hot seat. (She was more open about her career plans while exiting the CEO's office at eBay, we noted.)

"When I was in my second year at eBay, I was at a big analyst meeting, they asked that question, and I answered it. I'm older and wiser so I no longer answer that question," she told us.

Whitman replaced HP chief exec Léo Apotheker in 2011, and put in place a five-year turnaround plan in 2012. So it is possible she'll be off by 2017 – or perhaps even earlier – if the split works out well.

During her time at the troubled IT titan, she has stabilized the revenue decline but hasn't got the dial moving upwards. Operating profits moved in the right direction, partly due to axing nearly 60,000 jobs. Enterprise Services remains the company's Achilles heel.

Tens of thousands more are due to leave when HP Enterprise is up and running on its own two feet.

On whether Whitman sees out the plan in its entirety or not, she said "the next CEO of Hewlett Packard has to come from within. The challenge of coming from outside the company is that the learning curve for the first couple of years here is remarkably steep."

All of her predecessors in the past ten years came from outside the company, from Carly Fiorina to Mark Hurd to Apotheker, so she may have a point – the business lost its direction under those execs.

Whitman said HP has some "tremendously talented people," and that it is better for "partners, employees, and shareholders" that she hands the baton to an insider.

"The risk of going outside [the organization to recruit a leader] is very high; the CEO failure of people coming in from the outside is close to 50 per cent," she said.

Over at HP's PC and print business, the current boss Dion Weisler is set to grab the reins from a legal standpoint from the start of next month, when HP Inc begins trading as a standalone Fortune 50 company. ®

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