Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, is stepping down from that post after more than six years at the helm, the company said Tuesday.
During HPE’s fourth quarter earnings call, Whitman said she would relinquish the CEO title at the end of January but remain on the board. Longtime HPE (hpe) executive Antonio Neri, who had been viewed as Whitman’s likely successor after he was promoted to president in June, will become CEO Feb. 1.
Still, while Wall Street had been prepared for the succession plan, investors reacted negatively to the news. HPE stock fell more than 7% on the news in after-hours trading, despite the fact that the company reported earnings that beat analysts’ expectations.
Whitman, 61 with a multi-billion dollar net worth, is the only woman to serve as CEO of more than one Fortune 500 company. She ran eBay for a decade through 2008, then took over as CEO of Hewlett-Packard in late 2011. Two years ago, she oversaw the biggest corporate split (by revenue) in history, breaking HP and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise apart, staying on as CEO of HPE.
But when I profiled Whitman for Fortune’s Most Powerful Women issue in September, there were mounting signs that she was nearing the end of her tenure—not that she would admit it. More than five years had passed since she’d set out a five-year plan to rescue HP, and she’d accomplished many of the goals she’d outlined, though she’d emphasized there was more work to do to revive HPE’s growth.
“Given what she’s done, there’s not as many exciting things to do,” Jayson Noland, a senior research analyst at Baird, told me at the time. “It’s funny, some [investors] were concerned about Meg at the start, and now they’re concerned about who’s going to replace Meg?”
At the same time, Whitman seemed to be wavering in her commitment to HPE. Uber had publicly courted Whitman to replace Travis Kalanick as CEO, and she had entertained meetings about the job, even while denying her interest. When I asked Heidrick & Struggles, the renowned Silicon Valley headhunting firm, about Whitman’s prospects for getting another gig, it declined my request, citing its “policy of not commenting on candidates or companies engaging in a search.”
Marc Andreessen, the venture capitalist who serves on HPE’s board with Whitman, told me at the time, “Uber would have been very lucky to get her, and I’m thrilled that they didn’t.” (Andreessen is also an investor in Uber competitor Lyft.) “She’s born to run large organizations,” he added. “I think she’s happiest when she’s doing that. I don’t think she’s particularly happy when she’s not.”
Andreessen and others expect Whitman’s next move could be in politics—she unsuccessfully ran for Governor of California in 2010—though in our August interview she said, “I’m definitely not doing that.”
Here’s an excerpt from my profile of Whitman that explores the possibilities for what she might do next.
For the rest of the story, read “HPE’s Meg Whitman Won’t Be Uber’s CEO. But She Could Be the First Female President,” from Fortune’s Oct. 1 issue.