Apotheker bids farewell; did he see it coming?

Former HP CEO Leo Apotheker says Meg Whitman and her executive team will succeed in accomplishing the company's goals.

Leo Apotheker.
Leo Apotheker. Dan Farber/CNET

Former HP CEO Leo Apotheker had the chance to say good-bye to employees yesterday after the company announced his ouster, but questions remain over whether or not he knew he was being replaced.

In a memo sent to employees and seen by CNET, Apotheker expressed "admiration" for HP employees, adding that with their help, they were collectively able to make "important contributions to the company's future."

"Your efforts on behalf of HP and your dedication to our customers have inspired me--and I am confident that HP has a bright future because of the talented people that come to work here every day," Apotheker wrote to employees. "Thank you for your commitment to HP and for your dedication in serving HP's customers and partners. It has been a tremendous honor and a pleasure to work with you here at HP."

In addition, Apotheker mentioned his successor, Meg Whitman, saying that she "is a technology visionary" that will help HP "succeed in executing its strategic evolution."

Related stories:
• HP's CEO carousel continues: Whitman in, Apotheker out
• In Whitman, HP gets a CEO used to the spotlight
• Meg Whitman for HP CEO? Board eyes change

HP announced its decision to replace Apotheker with Whitman after the market closed yesterday, following rumors earlier this week that the company was mulling a change at the top .

In comments to analysts and investors yesterday , Whitman said that she and her team will immediately get to work on fixing HP.

"Going forward, HP will have no higher priority than to do everything in our power to meet the challenges of today's macroeconomic environment and frankly improve our operational and financial performance," Whitman said. However, she cautioned that getting HP "back on track" will "take time."

Lost amid the promises and HP's plans for the future, though, was Apotheker himself. In fact, a report yesterday from Bloomberg, citing an anonymous source, claims Apotheker might not have known that HP's board was calling for his head. That source told Bloomberg that Apotheker was readying a strategy discussion for yesterday's board meeting, only to learn that he was being replaced.

Although Apotheker didn't confirm that claim in the memo he wrote to employees, his firing shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. Since joining HP last November, Apotheker has watched the company's financial performance continue to slide, and has been forced to slash sales forecasts multiple times. The stock price--a key indicator boards use to judge CEO performance--has also plummeted, declining nearly 46 percent to $22.80 since the beginning of 2011, alone.

Whether or not Whitman will be able to fix HP's stock price, though, is in doubt. In pre-market trading, HP's shares are down 45 cents, or 1.97 percent, to $22.35.

HP did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment on whether or not Apotheker knew about the possibility of losing his job.

Apotheker's memo to HP employees

TO/ All HP Employees

FROM/ Léo Apotheker

Dear HP Employees:

This afternoon, HP issued a press release announcing my resignation as president and CEO, positions I have held with great honor this past year. Meg Whitman will assume the role of president and CEO.

As you know, Meg is a technology visionary with a proven track record of execution and has served HP well as a member of the board for the past eight months. Meg will be supported by a broad and deep management team, and I have the utmost confidence that HP will succeed in executing its strategic evolution.

On a personal level, I cannot begin to express the admiration I have for all of you - and what you have accomplished together. Over the past year, we were tasked with developing a strategic vision for HP and I know we have made important contributions to the company's future.

Your efforts on behalf of HP and your dedication to our customers have inspired me - and I am confident that HP has a bright future because of the talented people that come to work here every day. Thank you for your commitment to HP and for your dedication in serving HP's customers and partners. It has been a tremendous honor and a pleasure to work with you here at HP.

Sincerely,

Léo Apotheker

 

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