Why HP erred in choosing Meg Whitman as its new CEO

Her track record and personality are likely to backfire on the HP board, whose track record on CEOs is not great

It's now official: HP has appointed Meg Whitman as its new CEO, replacing Léo Apotheker. The company's choice is a curious one, to put it kindly. HP is struggling right now. It needs strong leadership and direction. It needs someone at the helm who is both business- and tech-savvy. In short, it needs someone who is not Meg Whitman.

Not convinced? Here are four reasons that Meg Whitman is a bad choice as HP's new CEO.

1. She has the charm of Larry Ellison. The recent California gubernatorial election served as perfect reminder of just how downright unlikable Meg Whitman can be -- or at least seem. Perhaps face to face over coffee or even in the boardroom, she comes off differently. But in the public spotlight, she comes off as brash and abrasive, qualities that are ill-suited for the public face of a company desperately needs a charismatic leader to inspire the folks at HP, not to mention charm the public, the press, investors, and partners.

2. She has the market knowledge of Steve Ballmer. Whitman's roots aren't in technology, at least not in the way that HP desperately needs. HP needs someone at its helm who understands not only the lay of enterprise- and consumer-technology landscape today, but where it's all going. The last thing HP needs is another CEO who will sign off on a billion-dollar acquisition of a company, only to squander that investment and lose major ground to rivals in the process, the way HP did with Palm. Oh, wait: When Whitman was with eBay, the company bought Skype for $4.1 billion, only to sell it later at a loss for $2.75 billion.

3. She has no experience as captain of a sinking ship. Yes, Whitman played an important role in eBay and PayPal's rise to fame and success -- but she also had the advantage of playing for the right team at the right time. This ain't the Internet boom, and HP isn't an exciting new upstart with a nifty C-to-C website. It's a floundering technology giant that desperately needs an injection of leadership and strategic thinking to help turn its fortunes around.

4. Her ethics track record is, well, spotty. From her sweetheart investment deal with Goldman Sachs to her personal use of the eBay corporate jet to hiring an undocumented worker as a housekeeper and nanny, Whitman's reputation isn't quite polished sterling. HP's had enough trouble in the past with leaders engaging in unsavory behavior. Why risk signing on a new CEO who has demonstrated that type of behavior already?

This story, "Why HP erred in choosing Meg Whitman as its new CEO," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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