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HP's Watts to head start-up

Hewlett-Packard's vice president of corporate sales resigns to lead a new Silicon Valley company.

ConvergeNet Technologies, a maker of storage and networking products for high-end users, announced today that it has tapped Richard Watts as its president and chief executive officer.

Watts will succeed Shari Nolan, who will become senior vice president of engineering and chief technical officer.

A longtime Hewlett-Packard executive, Watts resigned last week from the 59-year-old blue-chip company, which some describe as embattled, to join ConvergeNet--a San Jose, California, start-up that was launched earlier this year.

HP's Watts resigned as vice president and general manager of the computer sales and distribution group at the PC giant.

"It is sad [that Watts is leaving], but true," said HP spokeswoman Marlene Somsak. "There will be no replacement, but the entire sales force will continue to work with customers in the same way."

Somsak added that while the sales force has reported directly to Watts, it also has had close ties to the business groups. "Now the enterprise sales account group will report directly to the head of enterprise systems but will continue to sell the entire spectrum of HP products," she noted as an example.

The British-born Watts has been with HP for 30 years and has held several key positions at the company, including general manager of the PC business group.

Terms of his employment with ConvergeNet were not made public. His benefits most likely will be made more attractive with a large stock-option package, as is common with many start-ups trying to entice executives from established companies.

Sources at HP said his career moves in the past few years have largely been lateral and his chances of being a potential successor to HP chief executive Lewis Platt were minimal, the Wall Street Journal reported. Watts's associates said privately that his resignation had more to do with his own ambitions than with the current business climate at HP, the Journal added.

HP's stock is trading near its 52-week low.