New order

 

The king is dead, long live the king. That familiar cry has been going up around the OP world as some of the most significant companies in our industry shuffle the pack in a bid to secure a change of fortunes. It is hard to imagine a more feverous spell of changes among the OP hierarchy, as the various company crowns have been thrown around like the proverbial hot potato.

 

So will the crown rest easy or heavy on the heads of OP’s new order in the shape of Hewlett-Packard’s Mark Hurd, Office Depot’s Steve Odland and OfficeMax’s Sam Duncan? How strange it is to see these three names at the head of these respective firms when Carly Fiorina, Bruce Nelson and Chris Milliken seemed so entrenched in the industry just a short time ago.

 

Nevertheless, a new era dawns and hope springs eternal. While Odland’s appointment is put under the microscope on page 28 of this issue and everyone is still digesting former Shopko Stores CEO Duncan’s arrival at ‘Max, it is the change of HP’s leader that has caused the biggest stir.

 

The former NCR chief arrives with a solid reputation, as you would expect, and is hailed as a crack operations guy. As a business personality, Hurd’s reputation is about as far away from his predecessor, Fiorina, as it is possible to imagine, and it’s a pretty good bet that this was no accident. Fiorina’s superstar CEO status made her something of a loose canon as far as the HP board was concerned and the belief is that Hurd will be more of a board man and answerable directly to it.

 

Hurd seems to be a no-frills performer who will just get on with taking care of business, a solid leader with a strong track record. So in many ways Hurd is the anti-Fiorina and he has performed well in his early grilling from the media and investors. In particular, the hot topic of whether the company may be broken up has been neatly side-stepped by the new man in charge, while refusing to rule out anything that makes sense for the future of the company. Changes initiated by Hurd will be of tremendous interest.

 

Meanwhile, over at Office Depot, new man Odland has already made a series of key senior management changes including CFO Charlie Brown becoming international president. That’s a key role which will include the crucial need to bring up to speed the massive Guilbert contract business acquisition, which is still to fulfil its potential. To this end, it will be of particular interest to hear Rob Vale, Depot SVP of European operations, addressing the subject of company culture at the eurOPe 2005 conference in Barcelona this June.

 

Another key problem area of recent times, North American retail, has also been revamped. Depot has set off a crucial recruitment mission to find a president for the segment which lags behind arch rival Staples. The realignment of roles means Odland securing a hands-on role with seven direct reports.

 

No doubt OfficeMax’s Duncan will soon produce his own reshuffle in what remains a crucial period for the company.