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Ray Lane steps down as HP chairman

Ray Lane has announced plans to step down as chairman of the board for Hewlett-Packard. He will be replaced temporarily by Ralph Whitworth while the board searches for a new nonexecutive chairman.

"After reflecting on the stockholder vote last month, I've decided to step down as executive chairman to reduce any distraction from HP's ongoing turnaround," Lane said in a statement.

During last month's election at HP's annual meeting of stockholders, Lane secured only 59 per cent of the vote, while most of the other board members landed 80-90 per cent.

Two other HP directors, John Hammergren and G. Kennedy Thompson, secured only 54 per cent and 55 per cent of the vote, respectively, and they too will leave the board after the May board meeting, the company reported.

As noted by Bloomberg, proxy advisers urged shareholders to vote against Lane, Hammergren, and Thompson over HP's bungled acquisition of Autonomy. In November, HP said it would take an $8.8 billion impairment charge related to what HP characterised as "willful" cooking of the books by former executives at Autonomy, the UK-based enterprise software company acquired by HP in October 2011 for $10 billion.

"Since I joined HP's board a little over two years ago, I've committed to board evolution to ensure our turnaround and future success," Lane said. "I'm proud of the board we've built and the progress we've made to date in restoring the company."

Lane will continue to serve HP as a director.

"Ray, John and Ken are terrific leaders, and they're passionate about doing the right thing for HP," Whitworth said in a statement. His comments were mirrored by the company's president and CEO, Meg Whitman, who added that all three men invested a part of themselves in HP. "Their leadership is reflected in the early success we've had turning the company around," she said in a statement.

Former eBay chief Whitman took control of the company in September 2011, following the resignation of Léo Apotheker. At the same time, Lane moved from non-executive chairman to executive chairman of the board.

With Lane stepping down, the role of lead independent director, currently held by Rajiv Gupta, is no longer necessary and will be eliminated, HP revealed. Gupta will remain on the board, replacing Thompson as chairman of the Audit Committee. Gary Reiner will fill Gupta's seat as chairman of the Nominating and Governance Committee.

Whitworth will become chairman of the Finance and Investment Committee in Hammergren's absence.

In a separate blog post, Whitworth said Lane, Hammergren, and Thompson made the "personal decision to do what they felt was best for HP." He promised to "recruit a world-class chairman to take my place as soon a possible, and ... recruit at least two other outstanding directors before the end of this year."