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Mark Hurd’s sudden resignation as HP’s (HPQ) CEO has opened a floodgate of speculation regarding who the company will select to succeed him.

Because his departure wasn’t anticipated, there are no clear-cut internal candidates. And, because Hurd himself was a surprise selection for the post in 2006, it is possible that another little-known industry executive may be tapped again for the position this time around.

So, this creates a wonderful opportunity for anyone with a passing interest in HP’s future, and the future of the technology industry as a whole, to throw a few names in the hat.

The HP CEO position is particularly intriguing in part because it has grown to become the largest IT vendor in the industry through a series of acquisitions of Compaq, EDS and others. More importantly, HP like the rest of the IT industry is at a pivotal crossroads brought on by the disruptive forces surrounding cloud computing, globalization, the consumerization of IT, mobility and the economy.

As a consequence, HP and every other established technology (and software) company has to re-think their corporate strategies, redesign their products and services, and restructure their go-to-market tactics.

For HP, this means realigning its hardware, software and service capabilities to more effectively leverage the ‘cloud’ so it can more effectively responding to customers’ rapidly changing requirements and expectations, and compete in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

I was first prompted to think about potential HP CEO candidates immediately after Hurd’s resignation when I was asked by a top-flight headhunter for my quick suggestions and came up with the following names off the top of my head:

  • Joe Tucci, EMC’s (EMC) CEO who has transformed the company from a hardware-centric to a software-driven business model and pulled off a similar feat at Wang Computer where he moved the company from hardware to services. EMC and HP’s corporate capabilities and challenges have many similarities.
  • John Chambers, Cisco Systems’ (CSCO) CEO who has successfully transformed the company from a corporate network infrastructure vendor into a multidimensional technology supplier to everyone from major service providers to small office/home office [SOHO] workers. Under Chambers’ leadership, Cisco has withstood every economic and competitive challenge, and is now moving into the data center where HP has made much of its living.
  • Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com’s (CRM) CEO who has transformed the software industry by leading the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) charge and evangelizing about the added business benefits of moving to a broader array of cloud computing alternatives. If Salesforce.com isn’t going to be acquired by Oracle (ORCL) and Benioff made CEO under Larry Ellison, he would be a great candidate to push HP’s legacy software business into the new world of SaaS and its hardware business into the cloud.
  • Steve Mills, IBM’s (IBM) Software Czar, who has used an aggressive acquisition strategy to recast the company into a powerful middleware vendor within a similar set of hardware, software and service businesses which HP possesses. As a result of his success with the software division, Mills was recently given responsibility for managing IBM’s IBM hardware, storage, and operating systems businesses. But, Mills is also facing a mandatory retirement barrier to further advancement and could put his experience to good use at HP.

My friends, Chris Hoffmann and Scott Donahue at TripleTree, where I am a senior advisor, suggested that we put our heads together to broaden the candidate list. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Michael Capellas- He has successfully stepped into even tougher situations at Compaq (now part of HP) and MCI/Worldcom, and is well respected in the tech industry and beyond.
  • Bill Campbell - Current Intuit (INTU) Chairman and former CEO, but more importantly he has been a key advisor at Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL), and is also very well respected in the tech industry.
  • Kevin Johnson - Former rising star at Microsoft (MSFT) now running Juniper Networks (JNPR) who understands HP’s products and channels.
  • Anne Livermore - Runs HP’s Enterprise unit which brings together its hardware, software and services businesses. She’s been passed over many times but might be the safest best as an inside pick.
  • John Thompson - Former CEO, and current Chairman of Symantec (SYMC), recognized the importance of moving to SaaS but couldn’t overcome channel resistance.
  • Meg Whitman - If the Governor thing fizzles…she’s a proven, capable leader who will be looking to prove herself again.
  • Ray Lane - Ran Oracle as President, then became an early proponent of the virtues of SaaS as a top-tier VC.
  • Charles Philips - Has been driving Oracle’s acquisition strategy and runnng a major portion of its operations. He’s just beginning to learn about the hardware business as a result of the Sun acquisition, but he’s a quick study and forward-minded.
  • Jon Rubinstein - Ex-Palm (PALM), Ex-Apple…might be too much of an engineer but interesting match for HP. Understand mobility which is where the world is heading, and can help HP fully exploit its Palm acquisition.
  • Ed Whitacre - Just announced his resignation from GM where he quickly got the behemoth back on track with no prior industry experience. Before that, he also pulled together SBC and AT&T (T), and could bring HP’s far-reaching assets together. He’s in his early 60’s, so it might be a stretch to see him as a long-term CEO at HP. However, he could bring stability until HP cultivates a new leader for the longhaul.
  • Diane Greene - Former CEO of VMware (VMW) revolutionized IT with virtualization, a key component in HP’s future. Might be too techie, but certainly understands the opportunities and challenges.
  • Shantanu Narayen - Well respected, but not well known CEO of Adobe which is a key player in the web development world which is driving cloud services.
  • Vivek Paul- CEO of Wipro, known as a visionary in outsourcing, now in private equity, with the global experience which will be essential going forward.

If these industry stalwarts seem too mundane, here are a few frivolous ideas to think about for fun:

  • Brett Favre – nominated by my Minneapolis-based friends at TripleTree who worship the indecisive quarterback as a brilliant turnaround artist.
  • Joe Montana – my football oriented alternative because of better winning record and Bay Area roots.
  • Simon Cowell – he is a tough-minded task-master with time on his hands since he left American Idol.
  • Oprah Winfreyknows how to build businesses and a worldwide following, and might be willing to put aside her upcoming year of long goodbyes as she departs her syndicated talk show.
  • Tony Blair- the consummate negotiator who would be a perfect candidate to address the myriad of channel issues which will arise if HP adopts an aggressive SaaS/cloud computing strategy.

As you can see, Mark Hurd’s resignation has given us a great way to while away the dog-days of August with various ideas. I hope this gives you plenty of food for thought for the weekend and welcome your suggestions as well.

Source: Handicapping HP CEO Candidates