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HP to Hewlett: My ad's bigger than yours

The ad war between Hewlett-Packard and shareholder Walter Hewlett is heating up in major metropolitan newspapers. A Hewlett adviser expects the ad battle to get worse.

The ad war between Hewlett-Packard and shareholder Walter Hewlett is heating up in major metropolitan newspapers.

Walter Hewlett, who opposes HP's proposed merger with Compaq Computer, took out a full-page advertisement in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, in a move to outline the reasons he's against the deal.

Not to be outdone by Hewlett, HP launched its own ad, a two-page spread in the Journal. HP's ad, which appeared in the paper's Money & Investing section, appeared on the second and third pages of the section. Hewlett's appeared on page 15.

Hewlett's ad will also appear Friday in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News, he said in a statement. HP wasn't immediately available to detail its ad plans.

The ad war is just one more development in a series of tit-for-tat moves leading up to the March 19 vote on the HP-Compaq merger. Hewlett and HP have been dueling in polls and proxy statements. Hewlett and HP executives have also been making the rounds with institutional shareholders and Wall Street analysts to tout or torpedo the deal.

Is Hewlett miffed that HP's ad is larger than his? Nope. "It's the style and content that counts and we have the advantage there," said a representative for Mackenzie Partners, the New York firm that's advising Hewlett on his proxy fight. "We expect the ad war to get worse."

In HP's ad, the message was simple. The company detailed its standings in key tech areas and noted it would be the front-runner with Compaq. "HP is #5 in enterprise storage," read the ad, adding "HP + Compaq is #1 in enterprise storage."

HP's ad continued, putting its top spot in printing and imaging in the middle of the ad. One of Hewlett's main arguments against the HP-Compaq deal is that Compaq will hurt HP's printing business.

Hewlett's ad, entitled "Know means no," was more detailed, reading a lot like Hewlett's proxy filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Hewlett jabs at HP CEO Carly Fiorina, noting, "shareholder value has suffered under the current CEO."

Hewlett also said HP's management has a history of being "overly optimistic and sometimes dead wrong" and urged shareholders to vote against the Compaq deal.