HP plays corporate musical chairs

In the wake of the departure of executive vice president Richard Belluzzo, Hewlett-Packard has embarked on an elaborate game of corporate musical chairs.

Paul Festa Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Paul Festa
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Paul Festa
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In the wake of the departure of executive vice president Richard Belluzzo, Hewlett-Packard (HWP) has embarked on an elaborate game of corporate musical chairs as it seeks to keep intact Belluzzo's former group, which accounts for the bulk of the company's revenues.

Belluzzo, general manager of Hewlett-Packard's computer organization and a 22-year HP veteran, was named chief executive officer of Silicon Graphics International (SGI). (See related story.)

HP announced that its chairman, president, and CEO, Lewis Platt, temporarily will assume Belluzzo's duties overseeing its computer organization, which accounted for 83 percent of the company's business last year.

Anne McGrath, an HP spokeswoman, said she knows of no immediate plans to fill that position.

"What we're saying is that Lew Platt is heading up the computer organization for now," she said. "Anything else is speculation."

Speculation abounded on Belluzzo's ultimate replacement, widely expected to come from within the company. One candidate believed to be on the short list of candidates to fill Belluzzo's computing division spot is sales and distribution head Dick Watts.

Belluzzo's departure came as a surprise to some who had considered him the heir apparent to CEO Platt.

"He had the same job that Lew had before becoming chairman and CEO," noted Lehman Brothers analyst George Elling. "He was definitely a front runner."

Elling noted, however, that when considering how many years Belluzzo may have had to wait before the 56-year-old Platt retired, along with the lack of any guarantee that he eventually would ascend to the top spot, Belluzzo may have decided that taking a CEO position elsewhere made more sense.

Elling said that HP would do just as well to choose another executive from within its ranks.

"I didn't view him as being the visionary for the company," Elling said.

Other observers agreed, noting that the company is shifting its focus toward consumer products, while Belluzzo's expertise lay in enterprise computing.

In other issues relating to its reorganization, HP folded its measurement systems division into its test and measurement organization and named Ned Barnholt, 54, as the division's leader. The new combined division, to be called the measurement organization, includes product groups associated with electronic test and measurement, the medical products group, and the chemical analysis and components groups.

HP moved the information storage group from the former measurement systems organization in order to continue the consolidation of the company's computer business.

The head of the former measurement systems organization, 56-year-old senior vice president Doug Carnahan, will retire. HP named Robert Wayman to head its geographic operations unit, which manages the company's worldwide business structure. The company also formed an executive committee to replace several councils and their committees.

McGrath said that Carnahan's retirement was a catalyst for the measurement reorganization, but noted that the company had planned to simplify that part of its business, just as it had done with the computer organization in the summer of 1995.

"We're a big, diversified company," she said. "It made sense to put the different measurement groups all together under one roof."