Hewlett-Packard’s chairman, Raymond Lane, has decided to step down from his position in order to “reduce any distraction from HP’s ongoing turnaround”. He, however, will continue to stay with the company and serve as a director. He made his decision based on a recent vote at the annual shareholders meeting held on March 20th. While he was re-elected for his position, he only received 59% of the shareholders’ votes.
Taking over his position, at least temporarily, will be Ralph Whitworth, Founder of Relational Investors LLC. His firm owns $800 million worth of HP’s stock, and he says that his interests “are completely aligned with those of our shareholders”. He will act as interim chairman until HP can find a new, permanent chairman to replace him. As part of his duties as interim Chairman, Whitworth will seek out a “world-class chairman to take my place as soon as possible.” He also states that he will recruit at least 2 “outstanding” directors before the year ends.
Whitworth needs to find at least two new directors because directors G. Kennedy Thompson and John Hammergren have both also decided to step down from their positions. Hammergren and Thompson were both re-elected, but by very narrow margins. They received 54% and 55% of the votes respectively. They will continue to act as directors to HP until the board meeting held in May.
Thompson and Whitworth received a lot of backlash from shareholders due to a series of “HP missteps” that many shareholders felt they were responsible for. The most recent “misstep” would be HP’s acquisition of Autonomy in 2011, which resulted in a write down of a few billion dollars after HP discovered that the company was involved in a series of accounting fraud. CEO Meg Whitman released a statement about the changes. She stated,
“Ray, John, and Ken have invested a part of themselves in HP. A commitment reflected in the early success we’ve had turning the company around.”