(This story has been posted on All Things Digital, a website owned by Dow Jones.)
By Arik Hesseldahl
The search is on at Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) for an executive to run Autonomy, the software company H-P acquired for $12 billion in combined cash and debt last year.
While there's no word on who's on the short list--I'm told the process is just getting under way--candidates from both inside and outside of H-P are being considered.
Since the acquisition closed in October, Autonomy, which was founded in the U.K., has so far turned out to be something of a disappointment, despite all the pronouncements that it represented an important opportunity for H-P to diversity into software. During a conference call with analysts on May 24 and in a subsequent interview with AllThingsD, Chief Executive Meg Whitman said that the team at Autonomy seemed to have trouble closing the deals that HP's sales team would tee up. It reported "disappointing results" that hurt H-P's overall results, Ms. Whitman said, thus prompting the surprise departure of Autonomy's founding Chief Executive Mike Lynch. Since then Autonomy has been been under H-P's chief strategy officer Bill Veghte.
Autonomy's integration into H-P is the last lingering bit of messy business left over from the memorable day of Aug. 18, 2011. That was the day that former Chief Executive Leo Apotheker announced plans to spin off the PC business, acquire Autonomy, and then tied those two big strategic moves with a bow of a nasty earnings miss. Thirty-four days later, in no small part because of perceptions that he had overpaid for Autonomy, Mr. Apotheker was out of a job, and Ms. Whitman was his replacement.
Mr. Lynch, who personally banked $800 million on the sale, once publicly compared the relationship of Autonomy to H-P to that of a cub and a "mother tiger." Initially granted a lot of autonomy from the home office--no pun intended--its lean culture proved early on to be a poor fit within H-P, according to a report in the U.K.'s Guardian. Soon after the deal closed in October, Autonomy's heads of finance, marketing, and of several sales teams bolted for the exits, and were said to be unhappy with what they saw as H-P's bureaucratic tendencies.
But Autonomy's culture leaves a lot to be desired--at least in the eyes of people who work there. As Wired noted last month, its rating on Glassdoor.com, a site where employees rate a company based on work environment is about as low as can be. Whoever gets the nod will face challenges on the employee-morale and corporate-culture fronts, but the pressure will be on early and often to close deals.
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