Former HP Boss: The Buck Stops Over There
December 15, 2012
Who knows if this assertion is accurate? I read “Former HP CEO Shifts Blame for Autonomy Deal to Chairman.” The real journalists reporting this story know a heck of a lot more than a goose floating in a pond filled with mine drainage. The main point is that HP’s once and former leader, Léo Apotheker has allegedly asserted, “I did not buy Autonomy.”
Well, who did?
According to the write up:
Apotheker says that “no single CEO is ever able to make a decision on a major acquisition in isolation, particularly at a company as large as HP — and certainly not without the full support of the chairman of the board.” He then turns his guns on Chairman Ray Lane, without mentioning him by name: “The HP board, led by its chairman, met many times to review the acquisition and unanimously supported the deal, as well as the underlying strategic objective to bolster HP’s market presence in enterprise data.”
What I find interesting is that some key players are not mentioned by Mr. Apotheker or the article. Who is not involved? Here’s my short list:
- The Fiddler on the Roof in the deal, allegedly Frank Quattrone
- Various investment bankers for HP, Autonomy, and assorted stakeholders to the deal
- The lawyers for the key players
- The accountants who worked on the deal for the key players
- One or more government officials who stumbled upon the deal or had to review the deal before it could conclude.
In my opinion, HP was a juicy, fat, and slightly distracted goose. I should know because I am a goose. There’s a picture of me on my Web site and on this blog. From experience, a distracted goose can do some fascinating things. These span a spectrum from landing in front of a hunter dressed in bright orange and wielding a sparkling shotgun on a sunny autumn morning to attacking two 80 pound, slightly dim witted boxer dogs.
How persuasive are lawyers, accountants, and matchmakers where there is a fat, plump commission in play? In my experience, these folks can be quite convincing. Like magicians, leveraging distraction can work what seem to be miracles.
In the HP situation, I have concluded that HP was listening to the ticking of its biological clock. The best looking mate in the restaurant at closing time was Autonomy. Now, about a year later, the mate has proven to be somewhat difficult to convince that the HP way is the right way.
Logical step: Show Autonomy the highway.
Mr. Apotheker is partially correct. Maybe he, as I and HP, have some goosely qualities. Maybe challenging the annoyed boxer dogs is a very good idea. For me, it is back to the pond.
Stephen E Arnold, December 15, 2012