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Walter Hewlett sets stage for proxy fight

He's laid the groundwork for a direct appeal to shareholders to try to block the company his father founded from purchasing Compaq Computer. Whether he'll proceed is the question.

Walter Hewlett has laid the groundwork for a direct appeal to shareholders to try to block the company his father co-founded from purchasing Compaq Computer.

In documents filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Hewlett said he plans to solicit proxy votes on behalf of shareholders opposed to Hewlett-Packard's planned purchase of Compaq. The proxy effort is being led by Hewlett, two siblings, the family's William R. Hewlett Revocable Trust, and another person linked to the trust, the filing said.

But a representative for Walter Hewlett said the Hewlett family has not decided for certain to launch a proxy battle.

"Mr. Hewlett (has not decided) what course of action he will take," the representative said. "Right now he's keeping all of his options open."

The Hewlett family, along with David Packard, have come out against the deal.

Hewlett earlier hired a proxy solicitation firm, raising speculation that he might wage a proxy battle with HP.

The move comes a day after HP filed its own documents in support of the deal. The company also said in the filing that the Federal Trade Commission has asked for additional information about the deal.

"It's routine and expected in a merger of this size," an HP representative said. "It was anticipated, and it was built into the timeline."

HP stated in the filing that it believes the deal, if approved, will close in the first half of 2002. In a best-case scenario, the deal would close in the first quarter, the HP representative said.