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HP chief faces short honeymoon.

LESS TALK, more execution. That's what Hewlett-Packard needs in newly minted CEO Mark Hurd. Hurd, 48, replaces Carly Fiorina, who was unceremoniously dumped by HP's board in February. Hurd is a low-key guy. He's as comfortable with the engineers as he is with the sales force, with a reputation for promising little and delivering more than expected.

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Of course, that may be easier when you're the CEO of Dayton, Ohio-based NCR, which is a bit more sheltered from Wall Street's glare than HP. Nonetheless, as CEO of the $6 billion ATM-machine maker for just about two years, Hurd managed to increase sales 7 percent, helping boost the company's stock by an eye-popping 332 percent. "He's a guy who's shown a lot of courage in making tough business decisions," says Umesh Ramakrishnan, vice chairman of the executive search firm Christian & Timbers, which brought Fiorina to HP in 1999. Investors will now be looking for a repeat performance at HP, which languished under Fiorina's tenure, crippled largely by a disastrous Compaq acquisition.

Can he do it? Hurd provided few details of his plans after his appointment, but one message is clear: The showmanship that was a hallmark of the Fiorina years at $80 billion HP is gone. In his first public appearance at HP's Silicon Valley headquarters on March 30, Hurd displayed the careful yet meticulous nature that made him a darling of NCR's investors. Asked whether he planned layoffs or if he'd hire a strong COO, he replied: "I can't give you any guarantees on anything." He vowed to approach his new job with "excitement and humility."

Good thing, because his challenge is humbling: repairing employee morale, squeezing more profits from a struggling commodity hardware business, fending off rivals like powerhouse Dell, and making hard decisions, such as whether the company should spin off its lucrative printer business. And time is of the essence. Analysts and investors are already frothing for visible change. Hurd will have to prove himself before his very brief honeymoon is over. Welcome to a really hot seat.
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Title Annotation:TRANSITIONS; Hewlett-Packard Co.; appointment
Author:Girard, Kim
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2005
Words:343
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