Meg Whitman, the veteran tech executive, is retiring as CEO of Hewlett-Packard Enterprises, and investors are not happy.
Shares fell 7.7% in after-hours trading today (Nov. 21) after Whitman announced she would hand control of the company to president Antonio Neri on Feb. 1. Neri is a longtime employee of HPE and its predecessor company, Hewlett-Packard, which Whitman split into two businesses in 2015.
Whitman is probably best known for her decade-long run as CEO of eBay from 1998 to 2008, when she transformed a small online auction house to one of the first giants of the Internet. She later ran unsuccessfully for governor of California as a Republican before taking over as CEO of HP in 2011.
Investors may be reacting to the curious timing of Whitman’s announcement. Just two months ago, Whitman declared her loyalty to HPE, after her name was surfaced as a possible successor for Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
“I’ve dedicated the last six years of my life to this company, and there is more work to do,” she said in a Sept. 5 conference call with analysts, according to CNBC. “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.”
At just 61, Whitman may yet have another CEO job in her, which would be good news for gender equity at the top of America’s biggest corporations. Her departure means that now just 24 of the S&P 500 companies are run by women.