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Report suggests CEO Leo may be dismissed

A story on the Fortune website, and repeated up on Financial Times, says that HP's CEO Leo Apotheker may be replaced as early as today. Apotheker came to the job of leading HP less than a year ago, chosen during September, 2010 and going to work on November 1.

Ever since those days, the HP stock didn't recover its losses from the Mark Hurd fiasco that led to Hurd's ouster as HP CEO. Since HP announced it wants to spin off or sell its PC business -- as well as focus on enterprise computing and software -- the company's share price has hovered near all-time lows. Shares dropped to $22.21 until the rumors of Apotheker's replacement surfaced. If he leaves, HP may gain its second female CEO.

Whitman The replacement, according to the rumors, could arch a few eyebrows. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who after a failed gubernatorial campaign became a current HP board member, has been mentioned for the job. The last two times that HP dumped a CEO, it went outside both the boardroom and the corporation for new leadership. That led to Hurd (NCR) after Fiorina, and then Apotheker (SAP) after Hurd.

HP's stock rose on this news that came from "a person familiar with the matter," the nouveau reference to an unnamed, insider source. Shares climbed into the $24 range before HP's board was supposed to meet on the decision this afternoon. Whitman has been an HP director since the start of the year. Unlike Carly Fiorina, she earned her stripes before coming to HP. Whitman built eBay into an $8 billion company before leaving. A Fortune poll named Whitman the Most Powerful Woman in Business in 2004 and 2005.

Apotheker, while unlike either of the last two CEOs, might have been too out of step with HP's 21st Century passion for PCs and other low-margin consumer goods. The heart of that Compaq merger was being excised by the moves announced around WebOS, the TouchPad, and then the cancellation of the latter, plus a $10 billion deal to acquire SaaS software firm Autonomy. The Financial Times quoted its unnamed source as saying that Apothker "is like an organ transplant that didn’t take." (Full FT story here; watch out for the paywall barrier.)