Netscape founder Andreessen tipped as next HP CEO

After the sleaze-filled downfall of former HP chief executive Mark Hurd, pundits are now suggesting early Internet visionary Marc Andreessen as the man best placed to reinvent the beleaguered IT giant.

Hurd was forced to quit last week after evidence emerged of fiddled expenses claims he'd made to cover up an alleged affair with 'marketing consultant' and former soft porn star Jodie Fisher, star of straight-to-video classics Intimate Obsession and Body of Influence 2.

The drama wiped $10 billion from the value of HP's shares, and left the company casting around for a squeaky-clean successor.

Before scandal struck last week, Hurd had been the darling of Wall Street, guiding the company to financial success through a brutal programme of cost-cutting - a policy that also made him more than a few enemies, and according to critics destroyed HP's reputation for innovation.

New York Times commentator Joe Nocera even goes as far as calling Hurd's porngate a "manufactured crisis" aimed at ousting Hurd in favour of a more visionary successor. Oracle boss Larry Ellison slammed the HP board's decision, calling it the worst move since Apple sacked Steve Jobs, who later returned to lead the company back to triumph.

And a consensus is beginning to suggest that successor should be Marc Andreessen - founder of browser company Netscape, and a member of the HP board since 2007 when his company Opsware was bought by the IT giant for $1.6 billion.

Andreessen is seen by some as a maverick, but one with real business nous. His recent investments in runaway successes such as games company Zynga, location-based social media site Foursquare, IP telephony company Skype and social network Facebook have earned him the respect of both Silicon Valley and Wall Street.

In his blog GigaOm, respected industry commentator Om Malik suggests that appointing Andreessen could be HP's only hope to regain its reputation for driving technology, with the former Netscape man a rallying point for tech talent.

There's only one problem: Andreessen himself. In an interview around ten years ago, he told a reporter from Forbes magazine: "Being a CEO is a very, very difficult job, and it's almost a personality hard-wiring issue. Not that many people are suited for it, and I'm not sure I am."

One thing's for sure: with HP anxious to recover from Hurd's shambolic departure, Andreessen won't have much time to make his mind up.