You may not have heard of Ann Livermore. She’s not a big flashy A-list name in Silicon Valley. But Ann Livermore has been at HP her entire career. She joined in 1982, right out of Stanford B school. She has run huge parts of HP’s business, and knows the company inside and out. She’s a true HPer in the old sense of that word: quiet, competent, loyal to the company. In 1999 she made it known that she wanted the CEO job — but she got passed over for Carly Fiorina, a flashy former sales exec from Lucent who knew nothing about HP and next to nothing about the computer industry, but who made some snazzy ads about Dave Packard’s garage. Ann Livermore did not complain. She did her job, quietly and competently.
In 2005, when Carly crashed and burned, Ann was again mentioned as a great choice for CEO — but the job went to Mark Hurd, another slick-talking sales guy, who also happened to have a penis problem. Again, Ann stayed on, and did her job. Hurd crashed and burned in 2010, and they brought in Leo Apotheker. Then, in June 2011, Ann got pushed out of her job running one of HP’s biggest divisions, though she remained on the board of directors. After all that, she still would have been a great choice to run HP. But instead the board went with Meg Whitman — a former consultant and failed politician who has been on HP’s board for all of eight months.
Friends, if you see Ann Livermore in the halls at HP today, give her a smile. Give her a hug. Do not let her near any firearms.