back to article Mad King Leo pulled the wool over HP shareholders' eyes, ex-CEO Whitman tells court

Fresh from regretfully admitting she wanted to throw HP’s former CEO “under the bus,” Meg Whitman today told London's High Court Leo Apotheker said to shareholders he wouldn’t do a “transformative” acquisition – before doing that exact thing and buying Autonomy. Responding to more questions this afternoon from barrister Robert …

  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    The more this goes on...

    The more it seems like HP + Autonomy looks like a dogs breakfast and a very messy one at that with lots of smelly stuff coming out of both ends of said dog.

    HP Screwed up big time. Autonomy's game didn't surface until far too late. It really is time for HP to say, 'we screwed up big time' but they won't naturally ans will still try to get Lynch and co back to the USA and to serve jail time for most of the rest of their natural.

    HP was once a company you looked up to. No longer. A series of bean counters have ruined the company like many before and since. About time that BOD's all over the world took notice of that and... well just don't do it.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: The more this goes on...

      It's a bit hard to blame the beancounters. Steve Ballmer was a sales guy, and Leo Apotheker refused to listen to his CFO about the Autonomy deal, and actually tried to have her barred from the relevant board meeting to OK the transaction!

      So perhaps a few more bean counters wouldn't go amiss?

      The old adage is that the salesmen run the company in the good times, and the bean counters after it's all gone titsup.

      Whereas what you really want is someone who understands a bit of both. Someone who realises that cutting the free coffee saves almost no beans, but really pisses off the staff - and therefore costs you way more in goodwill than it gains you in money. But someone who equally realises that spending $10 billion on a shiny company over there had better have some seriously tangible benefits - because otherwise you're just pissing your shareholders' money away on hope.

      Notice how Apple have done so well recently and bought almost no companies. And what they do buy is smallish ones for their technology. Buying success looks like the easy option, but it's at least as hard as growing it internally.

      1. Inspector71

        Re: The more this goes on...

        Yes for all we have a go at the fruity one and boy do they deserve it at times they are pretty canny that way. Their biggest aquistion ever I believe was when they bought Beats for $3 Billion which is verging on change down the back of the sofa for them considering the cash pile they are sitting on.

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: The more this goes on...

        "Notice how Apple have done so well recently and bought almost no companies. And what they do buy is smallish ones for their technology."

        That's also what Microsoft did when Bill Gates was at the helm.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: The more this goes on...

          That's also what Microsoft did when Bill Gates was at the helm.

          Agreed. Look at Microsoft's first big acquisition: PowerPoint, in 1987, for ~ $2.8e7 in 2011 dollars.

          Then look at Balmer's Boondoggle: Skype, in 2011, for ~ $8.5e9. Two orders of magnitude more, adjusted for inflation.

          Which has driven more revenue / year, in absolute terms or relative to purchase price? Even if we adjust for how much cash Microsoft had at the time of purchase, and allowing for the fact that PowerPoint is part of the Office bundle and it's hard to separate the major components of that product into their individual contributions, I think it's hard to see how PowerPoint wasn't a much, much smarter move. (I don't much like PowerPoint myself, but it's obviously a hugely popular product in markets that are willing to buy many licenses for it.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The more this goes on...

      I don't claim to have a full overview of HP's product lines, but 2011/2012 was an interesting period for HP:

      - the battles with Oracle over the future of Itanium and Oracle support. Itanium was in its wind down phase based on processor development, but Intel/HP weren't ready to admit it to the market at that time.

      - Windows 8 was coming but looked like Vista round 2 for PC/laptop sales. The brief boom with Windows 7/Core2 processors wasn't likely to come again in the near future

      - the server/storage markets were beginning to see serious movement to cloud based systems, decreasing demand

      - legacy storage solutions were seeing significant competition from startups

      - competition around it's legacy software products was increasing, and the newcomers were winning

      - ink continued to pay the bills

      Hurd did very little for HP in my view. He kept on keeping on and the x86 market went through a small boom period, but Hurd did little to prepare HP for the future. Leo tried badly. Meg blamed Leo. And you can see the results.

      I can understand HP's (and Leo's) desire to move to a software focussed model as the legacy hardware models were in serious decline, but that required a well executed plan. Instead they got something scribbled on a beer mat in a pub after a few too many. And then dropped in the urinal before being retrieved by a junior assistant the following day. And even then, I might be being generous...

      1. NeilPost Silver badge

        Re: The more this goes on...

        Hardware in decline... desktop/laptop perhaps and only because of Lenovo saving their market share...

        ... but with the Cloud just on the horizon and billions of DataCentre HW coming soon... kinda the same reason HP moved into networking kit .. but slam dunk strategically beaten by Dell now owning EMC and most of VMWare.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I have to say

    Although I do not like anything HP since last millennium and, as CEO Whitman is partly responsible for that, I have to admit that she does appear to keep her cool and stay in control in a courtroom.It may be that she's already had quite enough boardroom struggles to not get fazed by a court lawyer.

    In any case, as a person, points to her.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am surprised Whitman is getting away with her tactics.

    I have been on a Jury and I have seen a Judge quite bluntly direct the witness to answer the question

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I am surprised Whitman is getting away with her tactics.

      I suspect it's because it's not a jury trial. So those kind of grandstanding tactics from barristers or witnesses don't work so well. The thing of only letting the witness get out one word and interrupting the context is less likely to sway, or impress, a judge. After all, they see it all the time and will have used the technique themsleves. But equally waffling to evade the question shouldn't be all that effective, for the same reason.

  4. Mr Benny

    A more general questrion...

    ... is how do these sociopathic liars manage to get into these positions of power in the first place? Arn't the board supposed to use a bit of intelligence when hiring or do they just grab the first person with a cheesy smile promising them the earth (and larger share options)?

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: A more general questrion...

      Because the people hiring ARE sociopathic liars themselves and need identfy that type of person as the person needed to run the company.

      Anyway... pass the popcorn

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wish I could get Robert Miles to ask this to Meg Whitman while in the witness box:

    "So Meg if you don't think you should over pay for anything and only pay a fare and reasonable price based on the value of something's worth then why is the price of your printer ink daylight fucking robbery ?"

    1. Fatman
      Thumb Up

      RE: "...why is the price of your printer ink daylight fucking robbery ?"

      I would love to hear that answer.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: RE: "...why is the price of your printer ink daylight fucking robbery ?"

        Pfft. She doesn't think anyone should pay more than a fair price. That doesn't mean she's obligated to refrain from offering them the opportunity to get screwed.

        For that matter, inkjet printers in general, much less HP inkjets in particular, do not have a monopoly on printing. Hell, you can get a monochrome laser printer for < $100 these days, and even get color laser printers for < $300. Will the manufacturers still try to gouge you on toner? Probably, though I wouldn't know, as my HP 4Mps from 1992 is still working fine.

        And, of course, printer ink is a product of HP Inc., not HPE. Dion Weisler runs HP Inc. Whitman hasn't had anything to do with that product line since the 2015 split.

    2. Andytug


      it's made from unicorn tears that can only be gathered at the first full moon of the financial year?

    3. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Because the other half of my job is to get as much money as I can for HP's products.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "In it he claimed there was “no financial incentive to drive forward Autonomy deals in the pipeline,” instead of reselling Commvault software on HP hardware. "

    So we see a little more of HP's strategy - Autonomy to compete with CommVault, only HP sales wasn't aware of it after the acquisition and maybe it wasn't the strategic fit that the board (including Meg and Leo) thought. Maybe they brought the wrong company? CommVault appears to have been worth around US$1bn at the time...

    I have no idea how realistic Autonomy's chances of competing with Commvault were - I've only used Commvault's products but I know we never considered Autonomy's products as an alternative...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chemical Leo

    Killed webOS and the HP phone division, took on Autonomy.

    Clever chap.

    1. Jay Lenovo

      Re: Chemical Leo

      And the HP Board (starring Meg Whitman) blame Autonomy for empowering the buffoon.

      Unfortunately, the prior board couldn't proceed to sue itself, so here we are.

  8. vtcodger Silver badge

    In case anyone was wondering

    .. If HP still made oscilloscopes, the answer is no. The test equipment business was bundled into a subsidiary called Agilent two decades ago. And Agilent in turn begat Keysight in 2014. Keysight makes oscilloscopes. I'm having a bit of difficulty groking why any of that makes sense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In case anyone was wondering

      I suspect, though I may be wrong, that things like oscilloscopes are best made and sold by an enthusiastic engineer-heavy workforce. Like HP was when it started.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    King Leo, nor Mark Hurd , nor Carly Fiorina, nor Whitman herself...

    NONE of these pulled the wool over shareholders eyes. We called "scam" for years. Which huge acquisition WASN'T a bust? Seriously, which acquisition that HP ever made turned out the benefits promised from said acquisition?

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge

      Re: King Leo, nor Mark Hurd , nor Carly Fiorina, nor Whitman herself...

      "Which huge acquisition WASN'T a bust? Seriously, which acquisition that HP ever made turned out the benefits promised from said acquisition?"

      3PAR? Don't know what was promised, though...

      There's a handy List of acquisitions by Hewlett-Packard at Wikipedia for perusal.

  10. a_yank_lurker

    The Gospel According to Meg

    So Meg says Leo the Planetary Idiot fooled the board and got approval for the deal, a deal the CFO recommended against. It seems like some blame should be put on the board for not doing their jobs. I doubt Leo the Planetary Idiot actually fooled the board as much as the board wanted a 'bold' move to reinvigorate HP. But to reinvigorate a company requires a very well thought out plan not a random purchase of a company. Fruit and Slurp, while they will make some biggish deals, tend to buy companies much smaller for their technology and talent. The few big deals Slurp has made (Nokia for one) generally have fiascoes much like Autonomy was for HP.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Gospel According to Meg

      Basically a guy is about to do time in the US because the HP board, not having had a classical education, couldn't parse "caveat emptor."

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