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Source: New York Times DealBook, April 4, 2013 profile


Hedge Funds

A Veteran Activist Takes the Helm of H.P.’s Board, Temporarily

By MICHAEL J. DE LA MERCED

Ralph Whitworth, the founder of Relational Investors, has been named interim chairman of Hewlett-Packard.

Denis Poroy/Associated Press

Ralph Whitworth, the founder of Relational Investors, has been named interim chairman of Hewlett-Packard

As Ray Lane relinquishes the chairmanship of Hewlett-Packard’s board, the computer company is turning to a seasoned activist hedge fund manager to oversee the company’s directors temporarily.

Ralph V. Whitworth, who became H.P.’s interim chairman on Thursday, joined the board in late 2011 after amassing a sizable stake in the company. Rather than risk a fight, H.P. elected to give him a seat and assignments on its investment and compensation committees.

It was only the latest victory for Mr. Whitworth, who began his investing career as a top lieutenant to T. Boone Pickens. Since founding Relational Investors in 1996, he has established a reputation as a top-ranking activist hedge fund manager who often gains board seats.

Among his highest-profile investments to date are Genzyme, where he had a hand in arranging the biopharmaceutical company’s sale to Sanofi-Aventis; Waste Management, where he became acting chairman in 1999 after an accounting scandal; and Occidental Petroleum.

Last year, Relational disclosed that it owned a stake in PepsiCo. The two sides had what a Pepsi spokesman described at the time as “constructive meetings,” though investors speculated whether Mr. Whitworth had contemplated agitating for a breakup of the food giant.

At H.P., Mr. Whitworth was tasked with leading an independent investigation into the company’s disastrous acquisition of Autonomy, since he was the only director not on the board at the time of the deal.


Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company

 

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