Preparing for the Worst: Tech CEOs' Successors

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While AMD has lost some big names -- notably its outspoken chief salesman Henri Richard and its respected CTO Phil Hester -- new blood, particularly from IBM's Austin processor business, have revitalized it.

Mark Hurd
Mark Hurd
Source: HP

"They've brought in a lot of very good people from IBM and Motorola," Brookwood said. "I don't think you could characterize what's gone on at AMD as a mass exodus. It's more like an organizational evolution."

HP

An HP spokesperson told InternetNews.com that upon his arrival, CEO Mark Hurd realized that HP (NYSE: HPQ) wasn't moving its talent around as much as other tech firms and instituted the executive shuffle IBM and Intel use so effectively.

The result is a lot of mid-level executives are moving around within the company to get the breadth and scope of experience needed.

Still, of all the major tech firms, HP's succession seemed to evoke the greatest debate. Not that Hurd hasn't done a tremendous job of righting the ship -- of that, there's little disagreement.

And among the industry watchers InternetNews.com spoke with, there was also unanimity in the belief that former CEO Carly Fiorina had a very good vision for the company, but failed in her ability to sell it.

The question is whether HP would promote internally or go for another CEO from outside the company, who would become its fourth outsider in a row.

Among the internal candidates, Ann Livermore, the longtime executive vice president of the company's technology solutions group, is typically viewed as the leading candidate.

"The acquisition of EDS is doubling down on the enterprise business, so Ann is probably the favorite of anyone internally," Kucharvy said. "I think Ann has sufficiently proven herself, particularly with some of the discipline being instilled in that organization."

But Brookwood disagrees. "I don't know if VJ [Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of the image and printing group division] or Ann would be up to it. I think Livermore has a good handle on the computer side of the house and VJ has a good handle on printing."

"But I'm not sure there is anybody in the company who has a good handle on the combined enterprise, because they've been kind of compartmentalized," he said.

Vyomesh Joshi and Ann Livermore
Vyomesh "VJ" Joshi and Ann Livermore. Source: HP
While Livermore and VJ get the most attention, HP spokespeople noted that there are nine executives working within the company who have held the position of CEO elsewhere.

Those include former Palm CEO Todd Bradley, now executive vice president of HP's personal systems group, and Thomas Hogan, senior vice president of the software division in HP's technology solutions unit and former CEO of Vignette.

As a result, HP has a deep bench from which to draw as well.

Dell

When we first looked at the CEO line of succession in 2006, we said Michael Dell could always step back in to run the company he founded if he had to. Well, he did just that, taking over as CEO of Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) in February 2007.

And now it looks like he's sticking around.

"I think Michael understands the next age of digital, and to be honest, I think he's having fun again," Bajarin said. "But they have an immense amount of talent."

Michael Dell
Michael Dell
Source: Dell
A whole lot, Spooner noted. "Dell has a team of former CEOs or CEO-quality executives. I think just about everyone in senior management can take over as CEO of the company."

"You're looking at almost hundreds of years of experience in this group," he added.

Indeed, Michael Dell sure knows how to surround himself with talent. Stephen Schuckenbrock, Dell's CIO, also holds the titles of senior vice president and president of global services, and is a former co-COO of EDS. Retiring CFO Don Carty was CEO of American Airlines, while Dell's new CFO, Brian Gladden, was CEO of GE Plastics. Michael Cannon, head of Dell's global operations, was CEO of Solectron.

Whoever the successor might be, they may have an easier time of it thanks to Dell's second tenure as CEO, which has seen the company expand into new markets.

"He's made some pretty bold moves in the acquisition space, which is not something Dell was known for," Bajarin said. "The EqualLogic buy was a good one for them. He's been building up some divisions that haven't had much attention at Dell, including the services group."

Page 4: Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco

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