Read This: Infighting, dysfunction, and the revolving CEO door; Fortune examines HP under Léo Apotheker and Ray Lane 49
By now you know how we feel about former HP CEO Léo Apotheker and his reign. Many of the major players in the tech industry - Apple, Google, Microsoft - have charismatic CEOs that act as the sole and unchallenged leaders of their companies. HP is a little more traditional in the Fortune 500 sense, with a Board of Directors tries to stay involved in company business, though it seems that having several competing ideas leads to more drama than we had imagined.
Over the past few years everybody in the tech space has seen that HP's board has suffered from no small measure of dysfunction. They've had a revolving door of CEOs - Léo Apotheker's predecessor Mark Hurd had last just five years, and Carly Fiorina before him was forced out after HP's near disastrous merger with Compaq. The board had garnered a reputation of being a leaking sieve to the press, so much so that the chairman had at one point hired private investigators to examine the phone records of other board members and reporters (that ended with a publicly embarrassing trip before a Congressional committee).
But none of that compared to the brief reign of Léo Apotheker. Brought on in November 2010 after Hurd's ouster, Apotheker had no hardware experience and had been fired from leading a German enterprise software firm with revenue a fraction that of HP's. His tenure as HP CEO included the unveiling and launch of the HP TouchPad and webOS 3.0 (a project started by Hurd with the acquisition of Palm)., the cancellation of that very product, an ill-advised "exploration" of spinning off HP's PC division, a catastrophic drop in stock value, and his eventual firing by the HP board just eleven months after being brought on.
Fortune set out to find out just what happened, interviewing dozens of current and former board members, executives, and employees and examining confidential company and legal documents in the process. What they found is a broken company, struggling to repair itself, with a board full of infighting and open challenges and a chairman desperate to maintain his position while burying over the decisions he'd spearheaded.
Not for the first time, the news reached the press before the official announcement. On Sept. 22, Apotheker read that he was being fired and replaced by Whitman. He was flabbergasted. In a meeting that morning, Lane told him that he had lost the support of the board and every single member of the executive team -- including former SAP loyalists such as Homlish. Before the board, Apotheker was subdued, dignified and resigned. But he was incensed. He had fully consulted with the board on everything, he told friends. He'd trusted Lane to make the board a functioning one, but instead Lane had turned it against him.
Lane distanced himself from the disaster, blaming Apotheker. The man who'd been proud of HP's bold moves was now running as fast as he could from the word "transformation." It had, Lane said in a conference call with investors, "been stricken from our language." Asked in a CNBC interview whether the board bore responsibility for HP's chaos, Lane reacted defensively. "I'm going to give you an answer right from my heart, okay? In January, I added five board members to this board. This is not the board that was around for pretexting. This is not the board that fired Mark Hurd. It's just like open season to write about this board. It's not this board. This board did not select Léo, okay?"
It's a massively long read, but for those interested in just how bad HP got, and how far it has to go, we have to recommend that you head over to Fortune and check it out. It's a doozy.