Carly Fiorina, the embattled chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, stepped down at the request of the company's board of directors.
The company said the change was effective as of Tuesday, when the board made its final decision to ask Fiorina to step down. Robert Wayman, HP's chief financial officer, has been named interim CEO and has been appointed to the board. Patricia Dunn, who has served on the board since 1998, has been named chairman.
But unemployment doesn't mean Fiorina will be going hungry anytime soon; her severance package totals $21.1 million, a sum that includes stock options and a cash payment based on her salary and bonus.
The move ended a nearly six-year tenure marked by acrimony as Fiorina battled to complete a merger with Compaq, reorganized HP's executive ranks and laid off thousands of employees. According to the company, the departure stemmed from disagreements over how to execute the company's strategy.
Many analysts have criticized Fiorina's leadership, arguing, for example, that she lacked a consistent vision. Nonetheless, a number of proponents for women in the technology and business worlds suggested that she has played an important role in opening doors for women. Her six-year rein at computer giant HP signaled that a woman could ascend to the top of a leading technology company, observers said, even as women overall have been dropping out of computer careers.
Fiorina was one of the most prominent female business executives overall and arguably the leading one in the tech world, in field that includes eBay's Meg Whitman, Lucent Technologies' Patricia Russo and Xerox's Anne Mulcahy.
As HP begins the search for its next chief executive, industry observers and CEO recruiters have plenty of suggestions about who would make good candidates. Some familiar names include MCI's Michael Capellas, who headed Compaq at the time HP bought it; Motorola CEO Ed Zander; and Dell CEO Kevin Rollins.
On the product front, HP on Monday plans to unveil its first blade servers using Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processor, as well as a more conventional server and a workstation that use the new chip. On the same day and also at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in Boston, Intel and AMD are expected to unveil new higher-end chips for dual-processor servers, said sources familiar with the companies' plans.
Work is also progressing at HP to take the Linux operating system into several new areas of the server market, including 64-processor machines. The company is vying with IBM and Dell for customers attracted to Linux.