The most exciting CEO in Hewlett Packard’s history, Leo Apotheker, has joined the very public blame game surrounding the multibillion dollar acquisition of British software outfit Autonomy, claiming the buck stopped with the firm’s board members.
Apotheker was in charge of HP when the $10.3 billion purchase of Autonomy was completed, shortly before he was ousted from the firm in September last year.
In a statement to Bloomberg, Apotheker claimed that the subsequent write down of $8.8 billion from HP’s value as a result of the purchase was not entirely his fault.
Apotheker said that “no single CEO is ever able to make a decision in isolation”, particularly when it is one the size of HP. He said that the board convened regularly to review the acquisition, before “unanimously” supporting the deal. He also commented that the HP board was in full support of the proposed strategy to move into enterprise data services.
Apotheker took the top job at HP following the departure of Mark Hurd as CEO, and attempted to change the focus of the company away from PC and printer sales. However, he claims that he was not given enough time to complete his vision for the company’s transformation, and that his strategic vision was essentially “sound”.
“Unfortunately, I was never given the opportunity to implement the strategy in its totality,” Apotheker said. “The new leadership has now been in place longer than my 11-month tenure. But it’s clear that HP still is in search of the right path forward.”
Current CEO Meg Whitman was one of the board members at the time of the Autonomy deal. She has laid much of the blame for the botched deal on Apotheker, as well as starting legal proceedings against former Autonomy boss Mike Lynch.
Lynch, who left the firm earlier this year, ramped up the public feud recently by starting a website aimed at providing a voice for former Autonomy staff. Lynch has argued that he has been unfairly scapegoated by the IT giant, with HP making accusations through the press without providing full details of financial irregularities.
Aside from the infighting of HP staff, present and former, the Autonomy fiasco has also allowed competitors to weigh in with their views.
Tin box mogul, Michael Dell, told the Sunday Telegraph last week that he too was offered the opportunity to purchase the British enterprise software firm, but was aghast at the price.
“It was shopped to us as well,” he said, adding that the it would not be willing to meet Autonomy’s valuation. “Not at that price. That was an overwhelmingly obvious conclusion that any reasonable person could draw.”
Oracle boss Larry Ellison has also been vocal about the overvaluation of Autonomy, claiming that HP paid double what it had previously refused to hand over for the firm.
HP has vowed to stick by its expensive purchase, and will aim to increase the integration of Autonomy software into its portfolio.