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HP fires second CEO in 2 years; Whitman in charge

Cathie Lesjak, HP’s chief financial officer, added to those fears when she disclosed that she isn’t sure HP can hit its revenue target of $32.1 billion to $32.5 billion in the quarter ending Oct. 31. She reaffirmed earnings guidance. She blamed weakness across consumer and commercial markets, particularly in Europe.HP’s stock fell $1.18, or 4.9 percent, to close at $22.80 on Thursday. It fell another 7 cents in after-hours trading. The declines were worse than the overall market. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 391 points, or 3.5 percent, on worries that the global economy is headed for another recession.Boosting HP’s sagging stock price will be an urgent problem for Whitman.HP’s market value has dropped by $60 billion since CEO Mark Hurd was forced out in August of last year over an ethical scandal. Hurd’s departure set the stage for Apotheker’s appointment as CEO and Lane’s appointment as chairman.Proving she can instill order in a disordered company is another pressing issue.Steering a startup through a period of growth is markedly different from running an established company that’s fallen on hard times, experts say.Whitman touted her business credentials on the campaign trail in her unsuccessful California gubernatorial bid. She spent more than any candidate for a statewide office in U.S. history on the campaign –at least $174 million, most of it her own money.She became a respected executive for her work at eBay, transforming it from a website with a few dozen employees and less than $100 million in revenue into an industry heavyweight with thousands of workers and billions in sales.But her record as CEO also includes a lesser-known episode that paints a different picture of her abilities to quell a company in disarray. Whitman’s time at FTD in the 1990s was her most high-profile turnaround attempt. It did not end well.Whitman has rarely spoken about her time at FTD. It’s an imperfect comparison to HP, but Whitman was brought in to the company in 1995 by her former colleagues at investment firm Bain & Co. to spearhead a major transformation. She was supposed to stay five years, but ended up quitting after two, citing investors’ unrealistic goals.”This company is not fixable, at least not by me,” Whitman wrote in her book, “The Power of Many.” She calls her tenure there “probably the most frustrating and, ultimately, least successful executive experience of my career.”Other types of concerns have been raised about Whitman.She was named to HP’s board this year as part of a sweeping overhaul under Apotheker and Lane. They were supposed to be steadying hands. But almost immediately, corporate governance experts began crying foul. They took issue with the fact Whitman’s hiring by esteemed venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where Lane works, was announced a week after she was formally elected to HP’s board.Several unflattering incidents helped scuttle her gubernatorial campaign.She was revealed to have shoved an eBay employee during a disagreement, which led to a six-figure settlement. Whitman said the altercation was an anomaly and taught her to always be professional. It was also revealed that her former housekeeper of nine years was an illegal immigrant.——Associated Press writer Juliet Williams in Sacramento and AP Business Writer Chip Cutter in New York contributed to this report.© Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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