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Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ)’s Board of Directors Gets Some New Blood

Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) took one much-needed step in the right direction today. HP’s boardroom just gained three new regulars, and it’s a high-quality infusion of new blood.

Hewlett-Packard CompanyHP’s board of directors is often held up as an example of terrible corporate governance. In 2011, ethics and governance expert Nell Minow wondered, “Could there be a worse board?” The company added one director the next month: activist fund manager Ralph Whitworth. Four directors left the board in 2012, including the entire nominating committee that made Leo Apotheker CEO. Otherwise, this group of error-prone directors has remained static since Ms. Minow hung them out to dry.

But today, Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) finally added some fresh talent to the boardroom. They’re not just some no-name fund-managers and also-rans, either; these are three proven winners who may in fact shake up HP’s rudderless operations.

Meet the new faces
These names should be familiar to many investors, but let’s do a quick rundown of their qualifications anyhow.

Former Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) software architect Ray Ozzie. Image source: Ray Ozzie’s official Twitter feed.

Ray Ozzie is a legend of software development. He launched Lotus Notes long before IBM acquired that productivity toolkit and made it central to Big Blue’s software strategy. At Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), he championed cloud computing and social media before it was cool. Ozzie took over the role of chief software architect when Bill Gates retired, leaving day-to-day CEO-type operations to Steve Ballmer.

With Ozzie in the boardroom, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him nudging the company deeper into software and services, much like Apotheker once did. The big difference this time is that Ozzie comes with much stronger credentials: Apotheker ran a not-particularly-strong operation at SAP; Ozzie, the world’s largest software machine. Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) CEO Meg Whitman could use someone with a clear vision who isn’t afraid to correct the boss when necessary.

Dob Bennett, former CEO of Liberty Interactive. Image source: Liberty spin-off Discovery Communications.

Robert “Dob” Bennett was CEO of Liberty Interactive (Interactive group) (NASDAQ:LINTA) from 1997 to 2005. He steered the Internet-leaning company through the dot-com bust and came out stronger. Under Bennett’s leadership, Liberty Interactive grew annual sales from $1.2 billion to $7.6 billion. He’s been known to stand up to Liberty chairman John Malone on occasion, and he still serves as a board member or executive in several of Liberty Interactive (Interactive group) (NASDAQ:LINTA)’s offshoots.

So here’s another software and services expert with some experience in pushing back against corporate bigwigs. Put this character together with Ray Ozzie, and I smell sparks flying in the boardroom.

Former McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD) CEO and current Walgreen chairman Jim Skinner. Image source: Marketwire.

Jim Skinner is the least controversial, but perhaps the most impressive, of Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ)’s new board members.

Skinner spent 41 years at McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD), including eight years as CEO. Average shareholder returns under his guidance were an eye-popping 21%, thanks to his focus on “being better, not just bigger.” Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) could sure use a generous dose of that mind-set.

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