- After announcing her decision to resign as Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s CEO on February 1, Meg Whitman sent an email to company employees about her departure.
- In the email, she gave her unequivocal support to Antonio Neri, the 22-year company veteran who has been tapped to succeed her.
- She also said those who have seen her work with Neri over the past year will not be “surprised” by the announcement that he is to become the next CEO.
Meg Whitman’s decision to step down as CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise may have seemed sudden to some, but she thinks employees shouldn’t have been surprised.
In an email to HPE employees obtained by Business Insider, Whitman noted that Antonio Neri, HPE’s president who will replace her as CEO on February 1, has worked with her closely and publicly lately.
“For those of you who have watched Antonio and I work together during this past year, I suspect today’s announcement comes as no surprise,” Whitman said in the email. “Many years ago, I said the next CEO of Hewlett Packard should come from inside our company. And when I said that, Antonio was exactly the kind of insider I had in mind.”
Whitman did not tell employees why she decided to leave the CEO job or where she plans to go next. She will remain on HPE’s board.
Hewlett Packard has been through an endless amount of drama over the past decade, or longer, and Whitman’s reign was no exception. From 2012 through the split into two companies, HP had laid off 55,000 workers. After the split, both companies continued to shed workers. By the end of 2016, HPE alone had laid off 72,000 people and word was it had another 5,000 layoffs in the works. In addition, she sold and spun out whole business units, creating four companies out of what was once just one, Hewlett Packard.
In her email, she acknowledged this by saying, “When I became president and CEO of HP in 2011, the company faced daunting challenges – leadership issues, broken strategies, weak execution, an increasingly competitive market and macro-economic headwinds,” and adding, “Together, we created four strong companies and generated enormous shareholder value.”
Proud of The Machine
Her resignation comes just two months after Whitman promised she was “not going anywhere.” That declaration followed her public admission that she had had discussions about becoming the next CEO of Uber and amid concerns that those discussions could be seen as a lack of commitment to HPE and jeopardize her future there.
During HPE’s quarterly earnings conference call on Tuesday, Wall Street analysts asked Whitman why she was leaving now after she had so recently said she was staying put. She declined to give much of an explanation.
“There hasn’t been a change in sentiment,” she said, adding “I think it is absolutely the right time for Antonio and a new generation of leaders to take the reins.”
As for what she will do next, she told analysts she plans to be “a very active board member.” Beyond that, she plans to take a break.
“After a 35-year nonstop career I am actually kind of [ready to] take a little downtime, but there’s no chance I’m going to a competitor [to HPE]. No chance,” she said. She added: “I love this company, and I wouldn’t ever go to a competitor.” (Our bet is she spends some time on various boards and that if she takes another CEO gig, it will be at a growing, mid-size startup, not another troubled giant.)
One of the big bets that Whitman made during her tenure was “The Machine,” a powerful computer that will use a new kind of memory that could store and process massive amounts of data instantly.
In her email, Whitman called the program one of the things she is “most proud of” from her time leading the company.
Whitman is not heading for the door immediately. She and the new CEO, Neri, will be hosting an employee town hall on Wednesday.