HP’s annual shareholder meeting took place last Friday – and the company’s still-pending acquisition of Compaq was the order of the day.
It was the topic of most of the questions from approximately 200 shareholders present. Most apparent was the absence of acquisition-opposition leader Walter Hewlett from the ballot to re-elect HP’s board of directors. It’s the first time since HP’s 1939 origin that the board has not included one of the now-deceased founders or a member of their families.
HP’s board removed Hewlett’s name from its list of nominees after he filed suit alleging illicit lobbying of major shareholders by HP management.
Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina, presiding at the annual meeting on Friday, said that HP and Compaq expect to begin merging on May 7.
“The board has stated its reasons for not renominating Walter Hewlett,” Fiorina said. Shareholder Bob Stewart replied that he would vote against the entire slate of directors if he could not write in Hewlett’s name.
“I certainly agree that dissent and debate are vital to a quality decision,” Fiorina said, replying to shareholder Andy Black’s question about the wisdom of ousting Hewlett as a director. “But there is a time for a decision, and there is a time to move on.”
Growing rifts Fiorina also dealt with several pointed queries from shareholders, some of whom were retired HP employees.
HP retiree John Bailey, however, remained as skeptical as he was at the special shareholders’ meeting in March. He asked Fiorina how she would heal the rift with employees.
She said the management team expects to: “spend more time talking with employees and making sure we understand their concerns” in the future. She also praised HP employees for continuing to focus on the customers and their work during the turmoil of the past six months.
“I don’t trust her,” Bailey said, shaking his head.