Since Carly Fiorina quit her post as HP’s CEO after differences with the board, there has been speculation that Michael Capellas might be just the man to come in and take the lead of the computing giant. Capellas was CEO of Compaq before HP bought it, and he became president of HP after the merger. He said he would stick around to help with integration of Compaq into HP, but in the event he was quickly poached by Worldcom – since renamed MCI – and a $50m salary.
There are three things bothering me about the speculation that he could be the right guy to take over from Carly Fiorina. For one, Mike has a job already. Yes, MCI may well get bought, but it is going to take a while for Verizon and Qwest to work out which of them wants it most. Even when they do, the CEO is often asked to stay on for a while to help with integration. It is likely to be tricky to extricate himself from MCI at such a delicate moment.
Secondly, people say he at least has HP experience. Well yes, but he was only HP president for six months, and during that time was focused on integrating Compaq into HP, not HP’s longer-term vision.
Third, he’s actually not a very experienced CEO. He joined Compaq as CIO, not CEO, and was only CEO at Compaq for two and a half years. During that time he was focused on getting Compaq into a fit state to be sold, not on its longer-term growth strategies.
On the other hand, he may well be just the man for the job. I interviewed him shortly after he sold Compaq and joined HP, and I can honestly say he seemed one of the shrewdest CEOs I’ve ever met. Even if, relatively speaking, he was a newcomer to the CEO role. You have to start somewhere.