5 reasons HP's Mark Hurd resigned

The official rationale for the former CEO's departure is vague

Mark Hurd
Former HP CEO Mark Hurd.

The official reason for Mark Hurd's resignation as chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co. over an allegation of sexual harassment left a lot of questions unanswered.

Hurd's resignation was announced after the close of markets Friday by HP's board of directors, which said that he ran afoul of the company's business conduct rules.

But didn't HP have other options than an abrupt departure by its top executive and the unwelcome attention such a move was bound to make on HP? Or did Hurd's problem present the company with an opportunity for change, an opportunity that it took?

Here are five reasons why Hurd left HP and what's ahead for this company.

HP's board wanted a change in leadership

Hurd's chief task at HP became surviving the recession and preparing the company for growth. He cut thousands of employees and worker salaries across the board. The company consolidated its own operations, taking 85 data centers down to six.

It was tough and scarring work, and the company may have wanted a new face to lead a leaner HP.

Hurd's focus on operations may have run its course

The board may have been asking itself whether Hurd was the best person to integrate HP's recent string of acquisitions -- including Palm and 3Com -- and keep ahead of the industry's fast pivot to mobile, Android and the cloud. It wants an innovator.

HP's interest in a CEO with a little more of Steve Jobs' DNA may have been telegraphed Friday, when HP signaled a new approach with Marc Andreessen. A member of HP's board, Andreessen may best be known for his work on developing browser technologies and co-founding Netscape, but he also gave HP some key server and data center automation technologies with the sale in 2007 of a firm he chaired, Opsware, for $1.6 billion. Andreessen is a Silicon Valley icon with a record of innovation.

And it was Andreessen who acted as the HP board spokesman when investment analysts were summoned for the call late Friday with this news. Andreessen was a particularly strong voice on the call, calling Hurd's removal "necessary," and telling those on the phone that "HP is not about any one person."

Andreessen is on the board's CEO search committee. If Friday's call is any indication, then it is Andreessen who may define what HP is seeking in its next CEO and for the company.

Cathy Lesjack, HP's CFO and now Hurd's temporary replacement, will carry a consistent message to Wall Street and is not seeking the CEO's job.

The strong CEO and chairman model wasn't working

Hurd is the second consecutive CEO at HP to leave on rocky terms -- and HP has to be worried about the third strike rule. Hurd's predecessor, former CEO Carly Fiorina left her post in 2005 after disagreements with the board over strategy. Hurd's resignation may be about an internal desire to restructure HP's top jobs and redistribute power as a way to to make room for different approaches.

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