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HP's Hurd: Other execs have his back

It has been a week since Mark Hurd stepped down as CEO of HP following a now-settled sexual harassment claim, expense report violations and code of conduct violations, and the company's board is hard at work finding a successor.

But ask C-suite executives who they think should be CEO of the global computer firm, and one of the top answers may surprise you.

The recruiting firm Cook Associates asked 1000 C-suite technology and financial executives in a survey who should be the next CEO of HP. Of the more than 100 executives who responded, the number one answer was Todd Bradley, the executive vice president of HP's personal systems group, who is widely viewed as the best internal candidate to be Hurd's internal successor.

But tied for second with Ann Livermore, HP's executive vice president of enterprise business, was none other than Mark Hurd himself. Respondents who picked Hurd, Cook Associates said, frequently questioned the HP board's judgment in terminating him.

Assuming these respondents had not received personal calls from Hurd pleading them to speak on his behalf, the results are a view into how executives view ethics violations. The belief that Hurd should still be CEO is a reminder that for many executives, performance trumps all. Hurd's reputation as an operations whiz--the company posted yet another strong quarter today, with an 11% jump in revenues and 6% boost in profits--is unlikely to diminish much in the eyes of his peers, no matter how many dinners he had with an actress/"marketing contractor" or how many expense reports he incorrectly filed.

Perhaps just as startling a finding as Hurd's continued fans is that 75% of the respondents, according to Cook Associates managing director Jeff Leopold, believed the next CEO should come from outside the company. While Leopold argues that's actually low, given the circumstances, I'd argue it's high. If Hurd was really as good as everyone said he was, the company shouldn't have to look externally for its next leader.

By Jena McGregor

 |  August 18, 2010; 9:41 PM ET |  Category:  CEO watch , Career Management Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Once the board decided Hurd had to go, which everyone can and has argued till the cows come home, they are obligated to conduct a search both outside and inside the company. Ask any expert; that's standard protocol. How the board eventually arrives at a final choice to replace Hurd will be informed by a range of factors, some of which are already reported on here. Insiders in a strong culture such as H-P tend to trump outsiders. Plus the company is performing well. The biggest irony is Hurd worked furiously on grooming talent even despite the fact the company neither publicly confirmed nor denied that they had a CEO succession plan at the time of Hurd's firing.

Posted by: jgarlington | August 24, 2010 11:27 AM

Most of the information in the media suggests that Hurd's departure had little to do with the publically given reasons. Except when people have substantial direct work experience with an executive, their opinions are not any more significant that any other popularity contest. Those who worked closely with Hurd probably are not talking. In any case, their opinions would be colored by their own agendas, ambitions, and personal emotions towards Hurd. At least one plausible scenario is that Hurd was brought in to dismantle HP's long standing culture. Once the job was done he was no longer needed. There are a few CEO's like Steve Jobs who clearly do make a large difference. But the more common case is that a company's forward motion is determined by poorly understood cultures several layers down from the CEO that he/she has little control over. With all its diverse roots HP is certainly likely to fall into latter category.

Posted by: dnjake | August 22, 2010 3:09 PM

CEOs are in place to maximize organizational profits, not to obey the law or benefit employees or society. They only do the latter 2 when doing so enhances the prospect of the former. They also serve as useful secondary purpose as scapegoats. Hurd fulfilled his role well on both counts and so will not have any trouble getting another lucrative gig with a huge severance package attached. Color me green, this guy knows how to play the game at the highest level.

Posted by: bpai_99 | August 20, 2010 11:16 PM

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