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Ex-Microsoft executive, ex-McDonald's CEO join HP board

Reuters  San Francisco, July 16, 2013
First Published: 11:50 IST(16/7/2013) | Last Updated: 11:52 IST(16/7/2013)

Hewlett-Packard Co on Monday appointed three big-name directors, including former Microsoft Corp software chief Raymond Ozzie and former McDonald's Corp Chief Executive James Skinner, as the struggling PC maker searches for a chairman and addresses top-level stumbles of past years.


The PC maker, which has been trying to strengthen its board after years of leadership calamities, also named Robert Bennett, former CEO of Liberty Media Corp and said it will continue searching for more directors. It is also looking for a permanent nonexecutive chairman to succeed Ralph Whitworth, who holds the position on an interim basis.

Monday's appointments increase the size of HP's board to 12 from nine.

Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman is trying to turn around HP's operations, while Whitworth, who heads activist hedge fund Relational Investors, promised board changes when he took the job in April. Previous Chairman Ray Lane resigned as the chairman after he came under fire from shareholders for his role in HP's disastrous acquisition of British software company Autonomy Plc. Lane remains a director at HP.

HP's leadership has been in tumult since the 2010 departure of CEO Mark Hurd over sexual harassment allegations, which he has denied. Current CEO Whitman took the top job in September 2011 after predecessor Leo Apotheker's brief stint, which was marked by slashed earnings forecasts and a plunge in the company's share price.

Lane also overhauled the board in early 2011, months after he joined.

In 2012, HP had to take a multibillion-dollar writedown for its takeover of Autonomy, enraging investors. The deal capped a tumultuous decade for the company that included the 2006 "pretexting" scandal, which led to the resignation of then-Chairwoman Patricia Dunn.

Monday's appointment of well-known directors to HP's board appeared to be an effort to answer shareholders' longstanding cries for a stronger board.

Ozzie's post-pc world vision

Ozzie, the software guru whom Microsoft founder Bill Gates designated as the company's big-picture thinker, left the company in 2010 to start Talko Inc, which focuses on mobile communications applications and services.

When departing from Microsoft, Ozzie urged Microsoft to move on from its Windows and Office roots and imagine a "post-PC world" of simple, global Web devices.

The addition of the author of the now famous "Internet Services Disruption" memo which he evangelized now-common cloud computing -- and which he wrote shortly after joining Microsoft in 2005 -- comes as HP is trying to adjust to shrinking PC sales. China's Lenovo Group Ltd (0992.HK) overtook HP (HPQ.N) as the world's top PC maker in the latest quarter.

Skinner was credited with turning around McDonald's during his time as CEO from November 2004 until 2012 and that company's share price tripled during his tenure. He is also chairman of drugstore chain Walgreen Co (WAG.N).

Bennett will join the finance and investment committee and its audit committee.

Ozzie will join the technology committee and the finance and investment committee. Skinner will join committees governing audit, human resources and compensation, and governance.

HP shares were up 20 cents at $26.39 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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