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HP calls Hewlett a man with no "plan"

Hewlett-Packard accuses HP-Compaq merger opponent Walter Hewlett of coming off wishy-washy, telling shareholders in a letter of his alleged inconsistencies.

Hewlett-Packard is calling Walter Hewlett the man with no plan, in the latest joust of an ongoing duel, as Hewlett attempts to persuade shareholders to vote against HP's proposed merger with Compaq Computer.

Members of HP's board of directors sent a letter to shareholders Friday chronicling a list of alleged inconsistencies by Hewlett, the heir of one of HP's founders.

The letter accuses Hewlett of flip-flopping on whether he has a "plan" for HP that could serve as a viable alternative to the company's merger with Compaq. "Now you see it, now you don't," says the letter, brimming with condescending invective.

HP has picked out Hewlett's contradictory statements to Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, in which he alternately states that he has a plan and is "not presenting a plan." The company portrays Hewlett as an aimless incompetent, buffeted by the media's comments.

The letter is another jab in a war of words in which both parties have pulled out all the stops. On Thursday, Hewlett took out a full-page add in the Journal, only to be overshadowed by HP's two-page ad. HP and Hewlett have also been fighting it out through polls and presentations to institutional investors and Wall Street analysts.

A representative for Hewlett called the letter a personal attack meant to cover up HP's inability to refute the points of Hewlett's plan. "With the focus-and-execute strategy (which Hewlett outlined earlier this week), you can add $14 to $17 a share to shareholders' value--and since (HP) can't counter that, they write a nasty letter," she said, noting that this was the fourth nasty letter this week.

"When HP can't support its deal with Compaq, they attack Walter Hewlett," she added.