Are tech firms prone to CEO upheaval?
Former Hewlett-Packard President and CEO Mark Hurd pauses during a press conference in Palo Alto, Calif.
TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: This was the first trading day investors had to weigh in on the fortunes of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd. Hurd resigned late Friday in what was first called a sexual harassment case, but what is now officially a "falsifying of expense reports with a whole lot of questions unanswered" case. HP shares ended the day off 8 percent from Friday's close, a fairly strong reaction to what is, in essence, a case of non-business CEO trouble, not really a defect in HP's underlying business model. It is, of course, one of the biggest technology companies out there.
John Moe hosts APM's technology program "Future Tense." John, good to talk to you.
John Moe: Hey Kai.
Ryssdal: So, what is it about technology companies and CEOs. Are they just especially vulnerable?
Moe: Well, look, all businesses are fast-paced, unless you're running an artisanal candle-making company. But tech companies are even more intense, even more fast paced. It's not enough to do what the company's always done; you have to do it better and you have to invent something nobody's ever done before. It's a pressure cooker. So it's intense, it's competitive and when something isn't working, sometimes the CEO gets whacked.
Ryssdal: All right, but let's look at HP specifically here for a second. Mark Hurd was, by all accounts, doing great, the company was doing fine and then this happens. What was it at HP, do you think, that caused this departure?
Moe: You know, there's so many scandalous TMZ-type stories that go along with him leaving that company. I just wouldn't want to be working in human resources at HP right now. But it's hard to say. That's a company where Hurd came in, he was able to cut a lot of costs, he was an efficiency guy. He wasn't necessarily "I've dreamed up the next iPad" kind of guy, but HP is at a really pivotal point right now. They acquired Palm for $1.2 billion. They're trying to figure out how to work in all that technology and all those executives from Palm. HP is working on trying to launch a tablet computer. They don't want to just be the paper company anymore in an increasingly paper-less world.
Ryssdal: Let me ask you the obvious tech company CEO question: Another company up there in Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Apple and the whole founders dilemma thing. I mean, there's a guy who truly is pivotal to the future of the company.
Moe: Despite the fact that he was fired by Apple at one point, and then eventually, brought back. And you know, also, in that area of the world, you have Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook. I think the idea of a founder/CEO, they're always going to have a little bit more, or a lot more, of an advantage than somebody who's just jobbed in to that office. They can evangelize the company, they can tell the story of how the company was built and they're right there in the creation of it. And when you're in a tech industry, when the people involved in it are in this hyper-competitive world and they're putting in the long hours, the charismatic leader, the person with the original vision is a very powerful component. That's something that Hurd never had.
Ryssdal: John Moe, host of our sister program "Future Tense," talking about Mark Hurd and Hewlett-Packard and the troubles that that company might be having. John, thanks a lot.
Moe: Thanks Kai.