January 24, 2005 10:25 AM PST

HP: We're not changing Fiorina's job

Hewlett-Packard denied on Monday that it is laying plans to redistribute some day-to-day responsibilities of Chief Executive Carly Fiorina, as had been indicated in earlier news reports.

Company representatives labeled stories of a pending management reorganization as unfounded and disputed a Wall Street Journal report that said HP's directors were considering a shift that would delegate some of Fiorina's duties to other executives. The story indicated that HP's board was seriously considering a strategy that would strip the CEO of some oversight in order to give more authority and autonomy over key operating units to three other senior executives.

HP spokesman Robert Sherbin said the rumors were spawned from a regular meeting of the company's board members held last week. While the meeting did include discussions regarding HP's plan to merge its Imaging and Printing Group with its Personal Systems Group, a move announced last week, no other executive shift was agreed upon, he said.

"Boards discuss a wide range of topics consistent with their fiduciary responsibilities, and any speculation about these discussions is just that--pure speculation," Sherbin said. "While the board did discuss structural changes at its recent meeting, there are no other senior changes due in the near future."

The company announced plans for the mating of the two business units on Friday, forming the HP Imaging and Personal Systems Group. The division will be led by Vyomesh Joshi, 50, executive vice president of the imaging and printing unit for the past three years. HP says that by combining the two businesses, it will be able to foster greater efficiency and help the company bring products out more quickly.

At least one industry watcher said it would seem "odd" for HP to aggregate executive leadership of two divisions one week, only to turn around and divide other responsibilities the next week. While he believes that Fiorina has been under intense scrutiny, even since before HP's controversial buyout of Compaq in 2001, IDC analyst Roger Kay said an immediate shift to strip the CEO of some of her power would seem unlikely, at least for now.

"You don't know; the news last week could have been the first shoe to drop in a larger movement to recalculate leadership at HP, but executive ability didn't seem to be the issue with that move, so much as responding to market conditions," Kay said. "Some people have been calling for (Fiorina's ouster) since before the Compaq deal, but I don't see why making such a move right now would necessarily be helpful to the company."

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What they say and what they mean are two different things.
I think a lot of people have wanted to get rid of her for a long time. She has basically denied anything has gone less than perfect, promotes any slight success as a full validation of everything she has done. She still hasn't really made it clear the Compaq merger had any point at all. The company is treading water, and they are finally starting to make some changes. In how she handles things in public, it is clear she'll fight any attempt to boot her out. Let them spin it all they want, but it amounts to a warning shot across her political bow. The only good thing is that during all of this, they have managed not to mess up the quality of their printers and the iPaq.

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