SAN JOSE, Calif. — After six years restructuring the storied Hewlett Packard Co., Meg Whitman will step down in February as chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. HPE named computer engineer and 22-year HP veteran Antonio Neri as its next CEO, suggesting technology changes may play a bigger role in its future than financial ones.
The move was announced as HPE reported quarterly earnings with strong revenue growth, but profits still lagging due to high memory prices and the ongoing commoditization of servers. Neri will continue a restructuring effort announced last month, HPE Next, that aims to shed in 2018 another $250 million in costs at the server and comms infrastructure giant.
Wall Street analysts called the move a surprise given the on-going restructuring and Whitman’s decision earlier this year not to seek a CEO role at Uber. However, HPE insiders said Whitman was expected to leave soon and name Neri her successor.
Many employees assumed Neri would become the new CEO after he was promoted to president earlier this year, said one veteran engineer who asked to remain anonymous. Few expressed surprise at Whitman’s planned departure given that she is 61 and HP’s founders had a tradition of senior executives retiring near age 60 “to provide an upward path for younger talent and to periodically reinvigorate executive leadership,” he said.
“Antonio is ready to take the reins and go the distance,” Whitman said on a quarterly earnings call with analysts Tuesday.
“We have a much smaller more nimble and focused company. We have a good leadership bench, and Antonio is a deep technologist. The next CEO of this company needs to be a deeper technologist,” she said.
Neri is expected to shift gears and aggressively develop technology in-house, rather than focus on mergers, according to two analysts quoted in a Reuters report. Neri began his career at HP as a customer service engineer in the EMEA call center and rose to lead the company’s server division in 2015.
Under Whitman, HP announced in October 2014 it would split into the server-based HPE and HP Inc, a PC and printer company. She then spun out $20 billion worth of HPE’s enterprise services and software operations as well as many smaller units and struck a joint venture for operations in China.
Whitman also bought many small and medium-sized companies that expand HPE’s presence in growth areas in cloud software, all-flash arrays and edge networking. “I have added a lot in shareholder value, financial restructuring and reigniting our innovation engine,” Whitman said, noting her support for the company’s research on The Machine, a new memory-centric, big-data server architecture.
When she arrived in 2011, HP “was way too broad, we were not executing with the right R&D against any of our segments” and the corporation moved too slowly, said Whitman, who will remain on the HPE board.
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