Hewlett Packard adds activist investor Ralph Whitworth to board

PALO ALTO, Calif. ― Activist investor Ralph Whitworth is joining Hewlett Packard Co’s. board after taking a small stake in the Silicon Valley behemoth, a move that may cheer many on Wall Street frustrated by the company’s recent decisions.

The addition of Whitworth, who co-founded San Diego-based activist investment fund Relational Investors LLC, makes HP’s board one of Silicon Valley’s largest, with 14 directors.

HP’s board has found itself time and again on the firing line since the infamous wire-tapping incident of the 1990s, when a scandal involving eavesdropping on directors and journalists forced then-chairwoman Patricia Dunn’s resignation.More recently, it has faced a storm of investor criticism and shareholder lawsuits over decisions from the hiring of former SAP AG (SAPG.DE) CEO Leo Apotheker as chief executive, to the haphazard way it has communicated its strategy, including a consideration to hive off its personal computer division.

Apotheker was replaced by former eBay Inc CEO Meg Whitman in September.

“HP is taking a proactive approach to upgrading its board of directors in the face of heavy investor frustration,” said Brian Marshall, analyst with ISI Group.

CNBC reported that Whitworth has a nearly 1 percent stake in HP. Neither the company nor Whitworth has disclosed the amount of shares that he owns. Whitworth was unavailable for comment. HP declined to comment beyond its statement.