Hurdy Gurdy Man

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The resounding question that seemed to be on everyone’s mind yesterday was: “Who is Mark Hurd”? Well for those who were following the search by HP to replace Carly Fiorina it was.
That’s because Mr. Hurd came out of nowhere to take the top job. He wasn’t even on the radar screen for most people (including us).

Hurd was most recently CEO of NCR (where he has worked for 25 years) a 6 billion dollar operation compared to HP’s 80 billion.

That’s some jump but a lot of people are saying he is the right man for the job.

Motley Fool gushed:

It's a brilliant move for HP, giving the company the freshest breath of optimism that it has been able to inhale in years

and others chimed in:
"This is the right guy at the right time," said Mark Stahlman, an analyst with Caris & Co. "He is a high tech guy and a high growth guy who is very operations oriented."

Patricia Dunn said that Hurd was the board's top choice and indicated that NCR's revival was one of the key factors behind their decision to hire him.

"Mark came to our attention because of his strong execution skills, his proven ability to lead top performing teams and his track record in driving shareholder value. He demonstrated these skills by turning around NCR, which, while smaller than HP, is a complex organization with multiple business segments," she said.

One fund manager who owns shares of NCR said that Hurd is one of the best executives he's ever met.

What makes him so good? Well apart from being very personable with staff and not given to the “rock star CEO” mentality he is apparently very operations oriented and according to one person “he executes like mad”.


Don’t worry though that doesn’t mean he cuts peoples heads off with great passion.

Not everyone is 100% sure that Hurd is the right person for the job however.

Barry Randall, manager of the First American Technology fund, which owns NCR but not HP, thinks the euphoria about a new HP CEO could soon fade. He said many investors had been buying HP because they believed the sum of the parts argument, i.e. that it would be worth more in pieces.

Randall thinks once investors realize that a break up is no more likely under Hurd than it was under Fiorina, shares could fall. "The punch line to me is that shares of HP jumped when Carly got the boot because they felt she was a roadblock to splitting the company up. And now they've hired a guy who clearly will not split the company up," he said.

"NCR has fallen so far off the radar. They have essentially been level, at best, for over a decade" in the general-purpose server market," said Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Illuminata. HP instead should have tried to recruit one of the many lifers out of IBM, Eunice said.

Calls made to headhunters and other executives brought intense skepticism that Hurd -- or any young CEO -- could make the jump from a $6 billion company to an $80 billion tech giant with thousands of different product lines. "Mark is a very decent guy, but I can't believe he would be remotely qualified," says one headhunter.

As I see it Hurd’s biggest problem might be the fact that some of those who run the different divisions might not feel they can learn anything from him. After all some of them have been responsible for businesses that are larger than NCR itself.

Hurd will have to establish credibility with these execs quickly or he will face real problems. He may even have to move some people out.

Although you can bet that some are dusting their resumes off already.

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He will also have to demonstrate his affinity for technology. Although it didn’t help his cause when he avoided questions from reporters at a press conference by pretending to take a call on his imaginary cell phone.

BTW now that NCR has an opening maybe Canadian Headhunter will get the call?

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