HP CEO Meg Whitman Takes on Chairman Title

HP’s board this week elected Meg Whitman, the company’s president and CEO, to also serve as chairman of the board.

The change came after interim chairman Ralph Whitworth relinquished his role for health reasons. The San Jose Mercury News cited an anonymous source who said Whitworth is suffering from recurrent cancer. Whitworth stepped in last year after Ray Lane resigned in the wake of fallout from HP’s CEO turnover at the time, and the contentious, $12 billion Autonomy acquisition.

Whitman is not alone in taking shouldering simultaneous top roles at HP. Previous HP CEOs who also served as chairman include Mark Hurd, Carly Fiorina and David Packard. Whitman was named head of HP in September 2011; she had been on the board since January of that same year.

“Meg has been an outstanding leader since coming to HP, and we believe that as chairman she can most effectively drive the turnaround and continue to build value for our shareholders,” said Gary Reiner, chairman of HP’s Nominating, Governance and Social Responsibility Committee, in a July 17 news release.

Whitman’s appointment signals confidence in her ongoing efforts to restructure HP. Those initiatives include thousands of layoffs as part of the move to the “New Style of IT” and a greater emphasis on the indirect channel. Tech analyst Pat Moorhead told the San Jose Mercury News that Whitman’s election as chairman demonstrates that she “is getting the credit for [HP’s] accomplishments.”

Still, another observer – Jayson Noland of Baird Equity Research – expressed reservations at the dual CEO-chairman title.

“I would…say that most shareholders prefer to see separation of the chairman and CEO roles at large companies,” the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The HP board now is comprised of 12 members.

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