One-time candidate Whitman to lead HP

SAN FRANCISCO — Hewlett-Packard Co.'s decision to fire CEO Leo Apotheker after just 11 months and replace him with former eBay chief Meg Whitman is another dizzying turn of the executive merry-go-round at a company whose leadership issues are straining a sprawling technology empire.

Swapping Apotheker, who now has been ousted from two high-profile CEO jobs in two years, for Whitman is a decision designed to stem investor fury over a series of questionable strategy moves.

Apotheker was doomed by disappointing earnings and his fumbled announcement that HP's personal computer division is for sale. HP's chairman, Ray Lane, said the dismissal was caused by several factors. "You don't deliver a quarter, you don't deliver another quarter, then you make some important announcements that are communicated poorly — it was incremental," Lane said on a conference call. Whitman was on the call, but Apotheker was not. "Then you have to make the tough call of, how long do you go along with that? Do you help? Do you surround? Or do you replace?"

Whitman is a billionaire who is best known for the decade she spent building eBay and her unsuccessful run last year for California governor.

But despite her success at eBay, Whitman is untested when it comes to running a company that is in as many businesses as HP. Another turnaround effort earlier in her career, at FTD, the iconic flower-delivery company, ended with Whitman quitting after two years and declaring that the company is "not fixable."

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