Fiorina Out as CEO of Hewlett-Packard

SAN FRANCISCO Carly Fiorina, one of corporate America’s highest ranking female executives, has stepped down as chairman and chief executive of Hewlett-Packard in a surprise move at the company she tried to transform from a printer business to a broad-based technology giant, HP said on Wednesday.

In a statement, Fiorina, 50, cited differences with the board over executing its strategy and suggested she was fired.

“While I regret the board and I have differences about how to execute HP’s strategy, I respect their decision,” Fiorina said. “HP is a great company and I wish all the people of HP much success in the future.”

HP spent about $260 million on domestic ads from January through November 2004, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Its best-known work is a digital-photo campaign from San Francisco-based Omnicom Group agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. That effort uses the Kinks 1968 song “Picture Book” and a technique that seems to capture moving pictures as photos. The work was named Adweek Campaign of the Year for 2004 [Adweek, Feb. 7].

The board of directors of Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP named Robert Wayman, its chief financial officer, as interim chief executive, and said it will seek a permanent replacement. HP named director Patricia Dunn as non-executive chairman.

Fiorina, one of a few women to lead a Fortune 500 company, pushed through HP’s acquisition of Compaq Computer in 2002 despite fierce resistance from shareholders and directors.

In recent months, she has been the target of intensifying criticism from technology analysts and the media for her ambitious diversification strategy, an attempt to change HP from a relatively marginal company that focused on printers and ink into a Silicon Valley consulting and computing powerhouse.

Despite her efforts, the company’s printers and ink division has remained HP’s profit center. HP has also faced more than two years of withering competition from Dell , which revolutionized the sale of low-margin printers, and IBM, which is focusing on lucrative consulting contracts.

Appearing at the World Economic Forum last month, Fiorina tried to downplay a Jan. 24 report in The Wall Street Journal that said HP’s board was considering shifting her day-to-day duties to other HP executives.

At the conference in Switzerland, she called the report “speculation” and said her relationship with the board remained excellent.

“Carly Fiorina came to HP to revitalize and reinvigorate the company,” Dunn said in a statement Wednesday on behalf of the board. “She had a strategic vision and put in place a plan that has given HP the capabilities to compete and win. We thank Carly for her significant leadership over the past six years as we look forward to accelerating execution of the company’s strategy.”

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