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How Léo Got the Job: Meet the People’s CEO

The tale making the rounds is that somebody on the HP board tipped him off to getting interview lessons from the BCG

So how did ousted SAP CEO Léo Apotheker manage to persuade the HP board that he was their man against a field that included EMC's Pat Gelsinger, Apple's Tim Cook (before Steve Jobs bought his loyalty back), Juniper Networks' Kevin Johnson, Cisco's Inder Sidha and Microsoft's Stephen Elop (who went to Nokia as CEO instead)?

Well, the tale making the rounds - if you happen to be at the right water cooler - is that somebody on the HP board tipped him off to getting interview lessons from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

BCG was aware of the board's overweening concern for HP's morale, which their last CEO Mark Hurd supposedly left in rubble and so, properly tutored, Apotheker was full of touchy-feely empathy for the staff, hitting exactly the notes the board wanted to hear, basically casting himself as the People's CEO who's going to bring back the old HP culture - which is hysterically funny considering that the internal survey that SAP did shortly before Apotheker was kicked out found that only half of the company's staff of 50,000 had any confidence in the man, a point that SAP made much of at the time.

That's why he's going on a two-month "listening tour" of HP to collect input from the hoi polloi.

It was unclear why Apotheker was so unpopular at SAP. It could have been that he alienated SAP's users by trying to up their maintenance rates; it could have been that SAP's Business ByDesign utility entry was botched; or it could have been because he fired 3,000 people - sort of like what Mark Hurd did but on a much smaller scale on a much smaller stage.

Hurd was unpopular because he abolished HP entitlements. Last Friday there was an all-hands meeting at HP with Apotheker. He was asked if he was going to restore the 10% pay cut that Hurd instituted so more staff wouldn't be fired. Apotheker reportedly palmed the question off on acting CEO Cathie Lesjak, saying, "I don't know. Let me ask Cathie." Now she's the heavy cause she said no.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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