Antonio Neri is the right person to take HPE to the next level

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Meg Whitman expressed strong confidence in her successor to the helm of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, President Antonio Neri, Wednesday, just one day after announcing she would step down as CEO.

“Antonio’s ready, the company’s ready, and it’s the right time,” Whitman said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” “I’ve said for many years the next CEO of this company needs to be someone we have promoted from within, someone who is a deep enterprise technologist, who knows the company — loves the company.”

Whitman joined Hewlett-Packard in 2011 and oversaw the company’s split into two brands. She remained on as CEO at the newly streamlined HPE, prioritizing cloud services and spinning off other businesses.

Her departure leaves the business world with one fewer female executive — a trend she said “is of concern.”

“I think in the last couple of decades, we made a lot of progress in the number of CEOs and number of female executives in the C-suite. It has stalled out in the last decade, if you look at the data, and I think that’s concerning,” she said.

She’s leaving a different company than the one she joined six years ago, having pushed for the company’s split.

“I believe the future belongs to the fast,” Whitman said. “And it was just too big and too cumbersome and competed in too many markets to do the very best job in all of them.”

Her tenure at HPE saw a ramping up of acquisitions — eight in the last two years, she told CNBC.

“[Neri] and I have been joined at the hip in deciding about those acquisitions,” Whitman said. “He’s been really my right-hand executive for well over four years.”

Neri has been with the company since 1995, working his way up to the company’s top ranks.

Whitman said she is not yet sure of her next step, but that any next CEO position would have to be “exactly the right opportunity.”

She has previously sought political office as a California gubernatorial candidate and reportedly spoke to Uber about a CEO position after the ride-hailing company booted founder Travis Kalanick.

Whitman told analysts Tuesday that she’d be taking a little downtime and said there’s “no chance” she will join a competitor to HPE or HP. She told CNBC she would “definitely not be running for office.”

Neri will take on the role of CEO at HPE as of Feb. 1, 2018, and both Whitman and Neri will be on the board, the company announced Tuesday.

HPE shares are down more than 7 percent in premarket trading following the news.

–CNBC’s Anita Balakrishnan and Jordan Novet contributed to this report.



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