December 14, 2012
leo-apotheker3The HP (NYSE: HPQ) Autonomy blame game is starting to feel like a political bout as the sides jockey for position and struggle to assign blame elsewhere. Now former HP chief executive Leo Apotheker, who largely has remained quiet throughout the entire $8.8 billion HP write-down fiasco, says he’s not the only one responsible for the hindsight-loaded disastrous Autonomy acquisition.
In a statement emailed to Bloomberg news on Thursday, Apotheker said HP’s board of directors, led by chairman Ray Lane, is equally responsible for pulling the trigger on the Autonomy purchase.
“No single CEO is ever able to make a decision on a major acquisition in isolation, particularly at a company as large as HP–and certainly not without the full support of the chairman of the board,” Apotheker wrote. “The HP board, led by its chairman, met many times to review the acquisition and unanimously supported the deal, as well as the underlying strategic objective to bolster HP’s market presence in enterprise data.”
It was under Apotheker’s watch in October 2011 that HP paid some $10.3 billion for Autonomy in what many considered an exorbitant price but the vendor defended as a vital piece of its plan to gain a foothold in the growing enterprise information management space–a Big Data linchpin, if you will. HP’s subsequent accusations that Autonomy’s books-cooking is to blame for $5 billion of the vendor’s Q4 2012 write-down, and its legal pursuit of those it believes responsible, including former Autonomy chief Mike Lynch, is but the latest chapter in the ongoing saga.
Apotheker said that HP hasn’t recovered from the problems he addressed as chief executive, particularly when he tried to shed the company of its margin-thin PC business and move it toward enterprise software and services as core deliverables.
“Looking back on my time at HP, I still believe the strategic vision that we tried to implement was sound,” he said. “HP was and still is in need of a transformational strategy.” He expressed regret that his ouster from the company after a brief 11-month tenure barred him from “implementing the strategy in its totality. 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.”
Less than two weeks ago, Lynch penned an open letter to HP, dated Nov. 27 but posted to his website Dec. 3, in which he says he was shocked by what he calls HP’s “highly damaging allegations” the vendor made public “without prior notification or contact with me as former CEO of Autonomy.”
Lynch’s open letter response to HP’s charges? “I utterly reject all allegations of impropriety,” he wrote.
It will be interesting to see if Lane follows Apotheker’s and Lynch’s leads to defend himself and redirect the finger of blame in another direction. Nearly everyone else has, he might as well, too.
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