3 HP Heavy-Hitters Qualified to be CEO

PALO ALTO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- HP's ( HPQ) board may be poised to appoint Meg Whitman as its next CEO, according to AllThingsD, although experts say that the tech giant could easily find its next leader internally.

With chatter about HP CEO Leo Apotheker's possible ouster reaching a crescendo, Whitman has emerged as the likeliest candidate to replace him.
There are plenty of viable internal candidates for the HP hot seat

Whitman, who left the CEO post at eBay ( EBAY)in January 2008, would certainly be a high-profile hire, although not necessarily a great fit for HP, according to Charles King, president of tech research firm Pund-IT.

"I can't see her performing as anything other than a figurehead," he told TheStreet, noting that she lacks experience running a company of HP's scale and complexity.

The no.1 PC maker sits astride both the consumer and enterprise worlds, and possesses a vast product portfolio stretching from servers and software to services. For this reason, there has been plenty of talk that HP could promote an existing executive to the CEO's role, most notably storage chief Dave Donatelli.

Read on for more details on HP's would-be CEOs:

Dave Donatelli

One of HP's rising stars, Donatelli joined the tech giant from EMC ( EMC) in 2009, where he had been touted as a possible successor to the storage giant's CEO, Joe Tucci. As executive vice president and general manager of HP's Enterprise Servers, Storage, Networking and Technology Services, Donatelli is at the forefront of the company's push into corporate data centers and its raging battle with Cisco ( CSCO).

"There were a lot of people who thought, after he was hired away from EMC, that he would be a potential future leader for the company," noted Pund-IT's King.

Donatelli was touted a possible HP CEO prior to Apotheker's hiring, and his profile grew following the tech giant's management reshuffle earlier this year.

Ann Livermore

Livermore, a member of HP's board, heads up the company's gigantic enterprise business, and brings a wealth of experience to the table. The 29-year HP veteran has seen her division make significant gains against IBM ( IBM) and Cisco, and is seen as a crucial cog in the company's machine.

In addition to her HP know-how, the enterprise chief is also renowned for her poise when addressing large audiences, a critical skill for the CEO of a major tech company.

Pund-IT's King acknowledges that Livermore is a "seasoned professional" with a deep understanding of HP, but notes that she was overlooked during the company's last three CEO hirings. "I think that Livermore's time has come and gone, but she would be fine as a caretaker CEO," he said.

Todd Bradley

Head of HP's $40 billion Personal Systems Group (PSG), Bradley is one of the key players within the PC giant. A six-year veteran of the company, Bradley oversaw the acquisition of Palm, and was key in pushing the company's PC business to market leader status, ahead of rivals like Dell ( Dell).

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu thinks that, of HP's internal candidates, Donatelli and Bradley would be the strongest. One of the key prerequisites for the HP CEO, he says, in a note released on Friday, is good supply chain management experience, something which Bradley possesses in spades.

Pund-IT's King, however, is less convinced. "Appointing Bradley would be counter intuitive -- the move to sell/spin-off PSG has likely been in the works for months and, while a reversal is possible, entrusting the whole company to the guy who runs its lowest profit margin business seems like a step backwards," he told TheStreet. "Plus, since Bradley has already stated his willingness to lead a spun-off PSG, keeping a known quantity in that role would be critical if that strategy continues. "

-- Written by James Rogers in New York.

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