Meg Whitman, the former CEO who built eBay, has been appointed to the helm of the faltering Hewlett-Packard Co., the Associated Press reported today. The aged computer maker has struggled to stay afloat amid elevated market competition, with a stock that’s fallen 42 percent, or $16.80, in the past year under canned CEO Leo Apotheker, who replaced Mark Hurd after a relationship scandal. Whitman knows her way around Silicon Valley and has served on HP’s board since January, but some critics consider her consumer-focused experience unfitting for HP’s hardware and innovation market. Here’s the Whitman rundown:
1. Ivy School Grad
Whitman graduated from Princeton in 1977 with a degree in economics after deciding that becoming a doctor wasn’t worth sitting through Orgo. After that she went on to get a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard in 1979. Her first job was with Proctor & Gamble, where one of her colleagues was Steve Case, who later gave up shampoo-making to begin America Online.
2. Athletically Inclined
Whitman was a two-sport athlete in her heyday. She played played lacrosse and squash at Long Island’s Cold Spring Harbor High School and at Princeton. Perhaps she’ll introduce two-a-days to the HP staff.
3. Old Money, New Money
Whitman grew up in Cold Spring Harbor, a hamlet in Long Island, New York (median family income: $112,441) as part of a wealthy family with ties to some of Boston’s oldest families. Her father had a loan business and her mother was a homemaker. Whitman has an estimated net worth of $1.3 billion, making her the 331st richest person in the United States, according to Forbes Magazine. She shares the spot with a few others, including factory pal Steve Case and Starbucks founder Howard Schultz.
4. Ran for California Governor
Whitman spent $179 million of her fortune in her 2010 bid for California Governor, beating the previous record for self-funding set by Michael Bloomberg. Then she lost. Running as the Republican candidate, Whitman was met with brutal opposition that led to a fiery and much-publicized election mired with controversy that saw Democrat Jerry Brown as the victor.
5. Consumer-Focused Career
After Whitman’s time at Proctor & Gamble, she moved to Bain & Company, working as a consultant in San Francisco. Before joining eBay in 1998, she held positions at Walt Disney Company, Hasbro Inc., Florists Transworld Delivery and Stride Rite Corp. Whitman’s ability to convince consumers to trust our (distant) neighbors led to an $8 billion expansion in revenue for eBay, the person-to-person marketplace where she apparently buys her clothes.
6. She Couldn’t Make Skype Go
Whitman spent $4.1 billion in 2005 for Skype, only to see a majority stake in the company sold to Silverlake Partners in 2009 for $1.9 billion. eBay was unsuccessful in integrating the Internet calling service with online auctions, so it will be interesting to see how Whitman leverages HP’s $10.2 billion acquisition of Autonomy and its enterprise software.
7. You Can’t Push Her Around
According to employees at eBay, Whitman has a temper. Apparently, she was prone to “bursts of anger” that led to a pushing incident with an employee in 2007. Whitman and the employee settled the subsequent lawsuit for “around $200,00.”
Whitman, 55, described HP as “a Silicon Valley icon that is in the process of reshaping itself,” the Wall Street Journal reported. She said, “I am honored and excited to lead HP. I believe HP matters–it matters to Silicon Valley, California, the country and the world.”