Meg Whitman’s decision to step down as CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise may have seemed sudden to some, but she thinks employees shouldn’t have been surprised.
In an email to HPE employees obtained by Business Insider, Whitman noted that Antonio Neri, HPE’s president who will replace her as CEO on February 1, has worked with her closely and publicly lately.
“For those of you who have watched Antonio and I work together during this past year, I suspect today’s announcement comes as no surprise,” Whitman said in the email. “Many years ago, I said the next CEO of Hewlett Packard should come from inside our company. And when I said that, Antonio was exactly the kind of insider I had in mind.”
Whitman gave no reason for her departure other than to say in a statement that “now is the right time for Antonio and a new generation of leaders to take the reins of HPE.”
The news came as a surprise in the tech industry.
Earlier Tuesday, HPE announced that revenue for the most recent quarter was up by almost 5 percent over the same quarter last year. And as recently as September, as she was reported to be in the running to take over the ride sharing service Uber, Whitman was telling financial analysts that she was in it at HPE for the long haul.
“I’ve dedicated the last six years of my life to this company, and there is more work to do,” she said then. “And I’m here to make this company successful, and I’m excited about the new strategy. So lots more work to do, and I actually am not going anywhere.”
Whitman, a former executive at The Walt Disney Co., Procter & Gamble Co. and other large corporations, joined eBay Inc. as president and chief executive in 1998, growing the online retailer from a $4 million-a-year boutique website into an global giant with annual revenue of more than $8 billion by 2008.
She was the Republican nominee for governor of California in 2010 but lost to Democratic incumbent Jerry Brown. During the campaign it was reported that she had employed an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper.
Whitman rebounded in 2011 by joining Hewlett-Packard’s board of directors. Within months, she had been appointed chief executive.
In 2015, she oversaw the breakup of HP into two companies: Hewlett-Packard, running HP’s legacy hardware operations, and HPE, focusing on the longer-term software and data sectors. Whitman stayed on as chief executive of HPE, with Neri joining her. Since then, shares of HPE have risen by nearly 50 percent.
Last year, Whitman broke with the Republican Party by endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, saying Republican Donald Trump had “exploited anger, grievance, xenophobia and racial division.”