HP Inc. (NYSE:HPQ) announced Wednesday that it will report results for its fiscal first quarter, which ended Jan. 31, on Feb. 24. CEO Dion Weisler participated in HP's last four conference calls, but this is the first full quarter in which he has headed an HP Inc. operating separately from Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (NYSE:HPE). Just what do we know about him?
For an executive at the helm of a technology institution -- not to mention a business that did over $50 billion in sales last year -- Weisler, an Australian, has kept a very low profile both in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street.
Indeed, a search for his name in The New York Times' database produced only three articles, the oldest of which was dated Oct. 2014, when Hewlett-Packard announced it would break itself up, with Weisler tapped to lead one of the two resulting companies.
The same search on Barron's turned up nine mentions, but none prior to Oct. 2014. Even The Financial Times, which has superior coverage of companies outside the U.S., turned up just eight articles.
That's not entirely surprising since Weisler has spent the bulk of his 25-year career in the IT industry outside of the United States.
One thing is certain: Weisler is a tested veteran of the hardware business, having joined HP from Lenovo, where he was chief operating officer of one of their units. He also spent 11 years at Acer, where he rose to managing director of Acer UK. (That title in the U.K. is equivalent to CEO.)
In addition, he has operating experience in multiple geographies, from the U.K. to Central/ Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific/Japan from India to New Zealand.
A fast track to the top
Weisler enjoyed a fast track to the top of HP, having joined the company four years ago. He was then responsible for the printing and personal systems group in the Asia-Pacific and Japan region. Within 18 months, he was heading the group globally, with responsibility for the largest share of HP's revenues of any executive. From there, he was the natural choice to head HP once the enterprise activity was spun out to form HP Enterprise.
What do we know about him as a manager? Going by his participation in the conference calls, he is not immune to speaking in corporate gobbledygook.
However, in his case, that does not appear to be a smokescreen to conceal a lack of vision or a confused strategy. Furthermore, Weisler appears to have a very keen focus on satisfying his customers. For example, at an HP company conference in May 2012, he explained that one of his first actions was to open a China development "that is focused on designing products in China for China."
Getting your hands dirty to win the business
Furthermore, armed with a bachelor's degree in applied science in computing, he is not an executive who shies away from the "shop floor". According to Bloomberg, upon joining HP, he won the firm a contract to supply 1.5 million PCs to a customer in India -- a contract HP had not intended to bid on because it was loss-making.
Weisler demanded a detailed bill of materials, then began systematically wringing costs out of it by going through every line item. By the end of the exercise, his team had reduced the PC's manufacturing cost by $67.40 apiece -- enough to turn a loss-making contract into a profitable one.
Heading a computer hardware business -- even one with a storied name like HP -- Dion Weisler certainly has work cut out for him. It's a brutally competitive industry in which earning a return for shareholders is a real challenge. However, from this columnist's perspective, if anyone is up for that challenge it's Weisler, who has the right combination of attributes experience for the job.
Now that he no longer reports to anyone in the corporate hierarchy (except for the board, of course), he has full freedom to lead a focused HP. This month's earnings presentation will be a good opportunity for analysts and shareholders to get a better measure of the man and his plans for HP.