Where Meg Whitman goes, company breakups often follow

October 6, 2014, 4:22 PM UTC
HP CEO Meg Whitman at Fortune Most Powerful Women 2011
HP CEO Meg Whitman at Fortune Most Powerful Women 2011
Photo: Asa Mathat/Fortune

Meg Whitman today blew up the notion of “One HP,” by announcing that Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) will split off its enterprise services business from its consumer-facing PC and printer business. Apparently a pair of Fortune 50 companies is better than a single Fortune 20 company in a tech market that now rewards agility over bulk.

Whitman will run the enterprise biz, while serving as chair of the PC and printer unit (which will retain the HP brand, and get a new CEO in current HP exec Dion Weisler).

To be sure, this doesn’t come as a shock. Certain analysts and pundits had been advocating an HP split for years, with some folks on Twitter this morning suggesting it may be too little too late for the Silicon Valley pioneer. But perhaps Whitman simply wanted to watch others go first. Namely two of the companies she worked for prior to being named head of HP in September 2011.

Last week, eBay (EBAY) announced plans to spin off its PayPal subsidiary into a separate, stand-alone company. Whitman had been CEO of eBay when it acquired PayPal in 2002. She also led eBay’s acquisition of Skype, which post-Whitman eBay largely sold off to a private equity group (it retained a minority stake, which paid off one year later when Microsoft later bought the entire company for $8.5 billion).

Two months earlier, Procter & Gamble (PG) announced plans to shed more than half of its brands. Whitman began her career at PG as a brand manager, spending two years in Cincinnati before leaving for San Francisco. One of her jobs in the Bay Area would be with Hasbro (HAS) , which three weeks ago gave up majority control of a joint kids television venture with Discovery Communications (DISCA).

To be clear, I’m not seriously suggesting that Whitman gave up the “One HP” ghost because some of her former employers recently chose to streamline. But it is nonetheless interesting to see all the corporate fissures that have appeared in her resume over the past month.

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