Meg Whitman’s tenure as CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise is coming to an end.
Whitman said Tuesday that she would step down from the business technology giant after a six-year stint, and described the reasons for her upcoming departure in a call with analysts.
In Whitman’s view, HPE is in much better shape than it was when she first arrived in 2011, prior to the company’s split from personal computer and printer sibling HP Inc. in 2015. At that time, Hewlett-Packard “was an enormous conglomerate,” she said, that confused customers because it sold too many disparate products—from servers to software to printers.
Additionally, she explained that the company’s size and management structure was an obstacle to staying current with technology trends. HPE’s core data center hardware business has shrunk over the years amid the rise of cloud computing, in which companies can purchase computing resources in a pay-as-you-go model.
“This company was a slower company than I would have liked to seen six years ago,” Whitman said.
Whitman’s tenure at HPE was marked by a series of corporate restructurings she believed was necessary to return the company to fighting weight. Even after its massive split from HP Inc., HPE continued to shed off pieces of its business it deemed non-essential.
This included, as Whitman detailed in the call, several complex deals like HPE spinning off its software business to United Kingdom IT company Micro Focus, and spinning off and merging its IT services business with IT company Computer Sciences, thus creating a new company called DXC Technology. During Whitman’s tenure, HPE also unloaded its Indian IT outsourcing unit Mphasis to the Blackstone Group.
Now that HPE can put those financial overhauls behind it, Whitman believes that the company needs a leader with technology chops, which is something she lacked. Antonio Neri, a longtime HPE executive who currently serves as president, will become CEO on Feb. 1.
“The next CEO needs to be a deeper technologist,” Whitman said. “That is exactly what Antonio is.”
Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi said on the call that he was surprised by Whitman’s upcoming departure, given Whitman’s earlier comments this summer that she had no plans to leave. At the time, Whitman was also reportedly discussing becoming CEO of the embattled online ride-hailing company Uber.
Sacconaghi also cited Whitman’s comments at the time in about there still being a lot of work to do at HPE, and noted that the company’s core server business, which had a 5% drop in year-over-year sales in the latest quarter to $3.28 billion, indicates that “there still is a lot of work” to be done.
Whitman said “there hasn’t been a change in sentiment” about her earlier statements in the summer. She then reiterated that HPE is much smaller and more nimble than it used to be, and that Neri, with his tech skills, “is ready to go take the reins and go the distance.”
“He has worked at almost every business in this company,” Whitman said. “I just think it’s the right thing.”