Who Pushed Out Mark Hurd? A Look at H-P's Board

Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE:HPQ) board of directors may read like a Who's Who of Corporate America, but its decision to push out CEO Mark Hurd has been the subject of much second-guessing.

So it's worth taking a look at who makes up H-P's board; after all, they were the ones behind the controversial change at the top, and they will ultimately have final say in choosing someone else to lead the world’s largest technology company.

The board of the tech heavyweight has come under plenty of fire for its handling of Hurd, who was widely respected in Silicon Valley for turning around H-P, but shocked the industry last week by stepping down for filing inaccurate expense reports. The board said the expense reports were designed to hide a “close personal relationship” with a contractor, Jodie Foster, but H-P said Hurd didn’t violate its sexual-harassment policy and Fisher denied having “an affair or intimate sexual relationship.”

Some say the punishment didn’t fit the publicly-stated crime of fudging expense reports, especially given how valuable Hurd was seen as being to H-P. In the wake of the Hurd ouster, the company’s stock lost nearly $9 billion of value on Monday, its worst one-day selloff in almost six years.

Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison, a powerful figure in Silicon Valley, slammed the H-P board on Monday. In an email to The New York Times, Ellison said the board “made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) board fired Steve Jobs many years ago.”

Others defend the board, saying there may be more evidence of misacting than meets the eye and that it was simply treating Hurd the way it would if it discovered a similar misdeed by an employee.

Two figures on H-P’s board stand out. Robert Ryan serves as the board’s lead independent director, which is an especially powerful watchdog position in companies like H-P that have one person serving as both CEO and chairman. Ryan was a senior vice president and chief financial officer at Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) and is currently a director at General Mills (NYSE:GIS), Black and Decker (NYSE:SWK) and Citigroup (NYSE:C).

Probably the best known and most controversial H-P director is G. Kennedy “Ken” Thompson, who served as CEO of Wachovia from 2000 until June 2008. It was under Thompson’s watch that Wachovia made the doomed 2006 acquisition of GoldenWest Financial near the top of the real-estate bubble. That takeover has been called one of the worst of the decade and was a major factor in Wachovia’s government-forced sale to Wells Fargo to avoid a complete failure of what was then the fourth-largest bank in the U.S.

Marc Andreessen, who co-authored the first Web browser, is another well-known Silicon Valley figure sitting on H-P’s board. Andreessen co-founded a venture capital firm and helped start Ning, an online platform used to create social networks. He is also a director at online auction site eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY).

Lucile Salhany and Lawrence Babbio, Jr. are the longest-serving directors on H-P’s board. Salhany likely has experience in public-relations crises as she has served as president and CEO of JHMedia, a consulting company, since 1997. Babbio is a senior advisor to private equity firm Warburg Pincus and was previously the vice chairman and president of Verizon. Salhany has been CEO of JHMedia, a consulting company, since 1997.

The rest of H-P’s board consists of other former and current executives, including Rajiv Gupta, who was the CEO of specialty materials maker Rohm and Haas for a decade and John Hammergren, the current chairman of health-care services and information technology company McKesson (NYSE:MCK).

John Joyce, who has been a director at H-P since 2007, is currently an executive at private equity firm Silver Lake and was also a senior vice president at IBM. Another director, Joel Hyatt, is vice chairman at cable and satellite television company Current Media.

Before joining the H-P board in 2006, Sari Baldauf was an executive vice president and general manager at Nokia (NYSE:NOK).