Whitman replaces Leo Apotheker, who took the helm at H-P, the largest U.S. technology company, less than a year ago.
H-P's chairman, Ray Lane, in a conference call to reintroduce Whitman to Wall Street, analysts questioning her selection and the board's search process, defended Whitman's appointment, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Asked whether the board was rushing to judgment, and questioned over the board's decision not to conduct a formal CEO search, Lane said the company had considered several internal candidates, the WSJ reports. Once Whitman, who joined H-P's board earlier this year, agreed to take the job, there was no need to look anymore, he added.
"If we thought there was a better choice outside, we would have conducted the search," Lane said.
A source told Reuters that the change in leadership did not mean that H-P would change major strategic decisions made by Apotheker. Last month, the company announced a plan to buy British business software maker Autonomy for $10.3 billion, and said it is considering spinning off its personal computer business — H-P is world’s largest computer maker — into a separate company.
The New York Times had more on the H-P board's reasons for turning to Whitman:
According to a person with knowledge of the board’s decision, Whitman was chosen for her track record of successfully managing a large, complex business, her communications skills both internally and with Wall Street and her ability to lead senior executives through corporate transitions.
Whitman ran an ill-fated gubernatorial campaign in California last year. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that she spent nearly $150 million of her own money on the race "before being trounced by Democrat Jerry Brown" last November. The Chronicle suggests that Whitman has recently been trying to reshape her image. Just last week, Whitman's family foundation announced it would give a $5 million donation to Silicon Valley charter schools.
The Associated Press reports that Whitman's appointment would be an "embarrassing end" to Apotheker's tenure at H-P:
It would be the second time in two years Apotheker has been forced out of a top technology job. He resigned from German business software maker SAP AG last year, after less than a year as CEO.
Whitman's appointment would represent yet another turnaround strategy at one of Silicon Valley's oldest, but most publicly dysfunctional, firms. Since joining H-P in November, Apotheker's strategic decisions have been drastic, and have done little to inspire confidence. H-P's stock is down nearly 50 percent since he took the helm.