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Ray Lane Loses Chair at HP

He has stepped down although he means to keep a board seat

Autonomy has sent another shudder through HP and its famously dysfunctional board, which is now going through still another surprise upheaval.

Ray Lane, HP's powerful chairman, has stepped down although he means to keep a board seat, and two other directors are off the board completely.

All three were directly involved in HP's monster $11 billion acquisition of the British software company, which wound up a year later as an $8.8 billion write-off amid accusations that Autonomy cooked the books.

Shareholder advisors blamed their "flawed oversight" for the catastrophe - as well as for the pitiful state of HP's share price - and recommended they not be re-elected to the board. And all three were only narrowly returned two weeks ago with less than 60% of the vote, an unusual showing of no confidence.

G. Kennedy Thompson headed the board's audit committee and John Hammergren headed its finance committee. HP said they will depart after the board meeting in May.

For the shareholder meeting on March 20 HP had argued to keep them, basically saying it didn't want to rock the boat. The company was showing early signs of stability and progress under Meg Whitman, its fourth CEO in three years, and it forecast fiscal Q2 earnings that topped analyst estimates last month.

Activist shareholder and head of Relational Investors LLC Ralph Whitworth, who elbowed his way on to the board in late 2011, will replace Lane on an interim basis.

He told the Wall Street Journal that Lane chose to step down because he feels he "doesn't have a mandate from the shareholders."

The downfall is quite a comeuppance for Lane, who has pushed his weight around since he arrived at HP in late 2010.

His arrival made for bad blood between HP and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who was appalled that HP would fire its CEO and chairman Mark Hurd, hire a guy Larry had fired years ago in his place as chairman and then compound the situation by hiring Oracle rival SAP's failed CEO Leo Apotheker as its CEO.

Lane was once president of Oracle and there was no love lost between him and Larry, anymore than between Larry and Apotheker, who set HP on the botched Autonomy acquisition course with Lane's connivance.

Anyway, HP's now looking for new directors and a new chairman. The board has named its lead independent director Rajiv Gupta to replace Thompson on the audit committee. Whitworth will also run the finance and investment committee.

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Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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