- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2002

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) They share a name, but that's about it. Hewlett-Packard Co. wishes Walter Hewlett would just go away.

The eldest son of one of the company's revered co-founders, the 57-year-old Mr. Hewlett has picked a fight with fellow HP board members over its $23 billion plan to buy Compaq Computer Corp.

The battle by Mr. Hewlett and other family members to torpedo the merger one of the most intriguing episodes in Silicon Valley history goes to a shareholder vote on March 19. Both sides are campaigning for support with full-page newspaper ads, letters, charts and some unkind words.

The company has dismissed Mr. Hewlett as an "academic and musician" with no real business experience. HP insiders complain that the usually reserved Mr. Hewlett surprised them by turning so vigorously against the rest of the board.

The first part of the characterization is a big understatement: Mr. Hewlett earned master's degrees in engineering and operations research at Stanford and a doctoral degree in music. He plays 10 instruments and writes software that digitizes classical scores.

With the determination he has shown in several marathons and a 139-mile "Death Ride" bicycle race in the Sierras, Mr. Hewlett is not backing away from his attacks on the deal, even as some analysts now predict it will succeed.

In an interview this week, Mr. Hewlett was tough as usual on HP Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina, whose fate hinges on the hotly contested merger.

"I think that Carly has been overly optimistic about what she can do with Hewlett-Packard," he told the Associated Press.

"She first proposed that we expand the company by buying PricewaterhouseCoopers, now she's proposing that we expand the company by buying Compaq. I think she's trying to build the company with some large-scale-strategy plan instead of blocking and tackling and building the company the way it should be built."

Mr. Hewlett's criticism of the PricewaterhouseCoopers bid which ended in 2000 when Miss Fiorina and the consulting firm could not agree on a price is curious because he supported that move.

Now, he advocates taking smaller steps, investing more heavily in digital imaging, the company's core business, and finding other ways to make PCs profitable ideas HP dismisses as "platitudes."

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