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HP grows, senior executives go

During the past quarter HP has seen its top executives in finance, R&D and legal affairs retire or resign. It's a sign the company is both maturing and changing that the likes of Bob Wayman, Dick Lampman and Ann Baskins will leave the company. HP is much changed since these executives entered HP's executive ranks. The corportion has made the transition from a business computing company to one where consumer products and commodity PCs account for well over half the business HP books.

Wayman is probably the biggest seat to fill for HP. The Chief Financial Officer joined the company in 1969, and he's held the CFO post since the Mighty Mouse HP 3000 (Series 37) showed that business computers could run in regular office spaces. (That's 1984 for those of you without a geneaology chart of HP systems.) Wayman steered the company through the tenure of four CEOs, and even held the post for a month himself between Carly Fiorina's ouster and the hiring of CEO Mark Hurd.

HP says that its treasurer, Catherine Lesjak, will succeed Wayman. He'll remain with the company until March to oversee the transition. HP's market cap and profits haven't been this rich since before the dot-com boom, so Lesjak will have to leap high to clear the bar that Wayman has left behind.

Lampman presided over an HP Labs which developed the world's leading inkjet technology, the designs that power more than half of HP's profits today. The Labs were also one of the birthplaces of the PA-RISC processor designs, the chips which still power every modern-day HP 3000 still running in the marketplace. Lampman came to HP in the same era as Wayman, joining the company in 1971. That was an HP still developing the 3000 and MPE, designing IMAGE, and unsure if a business computer was a good product to offer its instrumentation customer base.

Baskins led HP's legal affairs since 2000, serving as Chief Counsel until she resigned under the fire of the spying probes which HP weathered this fall. Her departure left many questions unanswered about how much the top corporate officers, like Wayman, knew of the illegal investigations HP was funding to stop leaks.

Unlike Wayman and Lampman, who are leaving HP amid a record of successful transition and development, Baskins stood to take the blame from HP's CEO and its chairman this fall. After taking the fifth, the top lawyer for HP listened while HP's corporate and board leaders described her as the person most responsible for HP's biggest mistake since eliminating the HP 3000 from its product line.

A fascinating article on Baskins' role in the spying — which might well have been a contributor to the departure of Wayman, and perhaps Lampman — was posted on the law.com Web site. In part, the article says:

In the end, the HP scandal comes down to this: The spying probe became a runaway train. And Ann Baskins was the person in the best position to recognize the danger and stop it. But she didn't. In fact, the records show that from June 2005 to April 2006, Baskins raised legal questions about the tactics at least six times. But she never pushed for a definitive answer about whether the methods used were, in fact, lawful. Or, more importantly, whether they were unwise and dangerous to the company. In retrospect she could have, and should have, shut down the throttle on this train long before it crashed.

The article goes on to report about Baskins' successes with HP: the spin off of Agilent and the merger with Compaq, the latter of which included handling a civil suit levied by shareholders. But her departure under fire stands in contrast with HP's top financial and development leaders.