Daily Archives: January 25, 2011

Who really owns Hewlett-Packard?

Therese Poletti interviewed me recently on the board changes at HP. The new CEO and Chairman have now pushed four directors out and added five more. As the article makes clear, I am not impressed.

But the change underway at the company leaves me with an even more unsettling feeling: who really owns HP? In theory, the shareholders own the company – they have voting power to hold the board and management accountable.

But nothing has been heard from any shareholder of significance since the Mark Hurd scandal broke. Two tiny investors have sued, claiming the company wasted corporate resources in paying Hurd to go away. Good luck with that.

Larger shareholders who have the sophistication to weigh in on the listing ship that is HP, like Cal/PERS, have been silent. Well, not exactly silent. Cal/PERS recently did attack a prominent Valley company for inadequate corporate governance, but HP was not the target. It was, believe it or not, Apple!

With the constantly shifting leadership at HP, I am reminded of a tale about the 1960s. A hippy was hitch hiking down Highway 1. A van painted with flowers and wild colors stopped to pick him up. After a while the driver asked if the hippy would take over the wheel. The driver said he wanted to get in back with some other folks and, well, you know, indulge. He told the hippy to feel free to do the same if another hitch hiker came along. One did and the first hippy in turn climbed in back and turned the van over to the new occupant. He, too, indulged with a few other people in back including the first driver.

The day wound onward and eventually the first hippy realized the van had reached his destination. He asked the newest driver to stop and he got out of the back and started walking home.

And then it it hit him…not a single person in the van when he got out had been in the van when he got in, and none of the people in the van when he got in were still there when he got out.

Who knows, maybe that van is still making its way up and down the California coast line.

HP seems kind of like that van. No one really owns it, they’re just using it. It’s one thing to let a flower power van function like that, but our country’s largest IT company? Really?

Motley H-P board isn’t what Apotheker needs Therese Poletti’s Tech Tales – MarketWatch.