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The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street: The All-HP Edition

3. Lucky Leo Cashes Out - - Originally published on Sept. 30, 2011

Honestly, we can't think of a better job in the world than getting fired as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Can you?

Check this out. HP stock was trading at $42 a share on Sept. 30, 2010 when Leo Apotheker replaced the scandal-tarred Mark Hurd as CEO. Fast forward to Sept. 22, 2011 and the shares were barely above $22 when the company formally announced Meg Whitman would be replacing Apotheker in the company's top job.

Yep, HP lost nearly half its market value in barely a year under Leo's astute stewardship. So how much is he likely to walk away with for all his success? Over $25 million, according to some sources, after adding up his annual salary, signing bonus, relocation assistance, severance pay and stock grants that vest immediately upon his departure.

Lucky Leo is in line to pocket all that dough for wrecking a company and getting ousted. Damn, that sure is good work if you can get it.

And because HP is so screwed up, Leo is not even the first guy -- or gal -- to snag a serious payday from HP's board before being sent packing. In fact, that pretty much is the protocol at the printer maker. (Wait! Do they still make printers anymore? Or did they drop that business with the tablets? Oh, who knows anymore? Who cares anymore?)

Mark Hurd, who left in a cloud of sex and shame, received a cash severance payment of $12.2 million before jumping to an executive job at Oracle (ORCL - Get Report). The total value of his exit package was eventually estimated at $34 million.

HP CFO Cathie Lesjak filled in as CEO after Hurd took off, bridging the gap between Hurd and Apotheker. She was granted a $1 million cash bonus and $2.6 million in stock grants for her three months of "exceptional service." And Carly Fiorina, who left as CEO in 2005, was given a $21.4 million cash severance in addition to another $21.1 million in stock grants.

All-in HP has spent the better part of $80 million, conservatively speaking, on exit packages for its past four CEOs, including Lesjack's brief stint. Meanwhile, shareholders have seen the value of their holdings decimated.

To which we say, congratulations Meg. Good luck with your new gig. Here's hoping you get canned as soon as possible. Seems to guarantee quite a payday.

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