Daily Ticker

Meg Whitman Inherited a Mess at HP: Can She Save It?

Aaron Task
Daily Ticker

After tumbling 60% from mid-February to mid-November 2012, Hewlett-Packard shares have enjoyed a bit of a revival. Since bottoming at under $12 on Nov. 20, HP has rebounded to just under $17 as of Monday's close, a roughly 45% rebound.

But anyone betting on HP because of its breakup potential is likely to be disappointed, according to Aaron Ricadela, a Bloomberg reporter and co-author of Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover story on the Silicon Valley icon.

“There are some on Wall Street who certainly think the pieces could be more valuable in parts,” Ricadela says. “But so far we’ve seen Meg Whitman and her management team resist that. Whitman had said again and again…that she sees the value in keeping it together.”

Related: HP’s Downfall? Look to Its Board

Whitman has also said repeatedly that turning around HP is going to take five years, leading to two critical questions:

  • Assuming it’s not already priced into the stock, will investors have the patience for such a long turnaround?
  • Is Whitman the right person to lead HP?

“Meg Whitman was brought in to try to calm the waters…restore credibility with Wall Street and with customers after all of the flip-flopping that happened in the [Leo] Apotheker era,” Ricadela says. “She’s suffering some of the ills of her predecessors.”

Related: HP Is "the Epitome of a Value Trap" After "Embarrassing Debacle": Ritholtz

Whitman is also suffering from comparisons to Apotheker’s predecessor, Mark Hurd, who was ousted in 2010 amid sexual harassment charges brought by a former HP contractor. Prior to that, Hurd oversaw incredible financial success: HP increased profits 22 straight quarters while its stock rose 63% and its share price double during his tenure as CEO.

Hurd was so well respected -- and HP held in such reverence in Silicon Valley -- that Steve Jobs reached out to him after he was fired to try and broker a reconciliation with the firm, Bloomberg reports.

“Mark Hurd was a special kind of CEO; he seemed to be able to keep all of HP in his head,” Ricadela recalls. “One of the central questions around HP now, and it’s yet to be resolved: Did Mark Hurd sacrifice the future for short-term growth? On the other hand, is HP a bit lost in the wilderness without him?”

For HP, it seems, there are more questions than answers.

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker and Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at altask@yahoo.com

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