Ralph V. Whitworth is taking a leave of absence from Relational Investors and resigning from the board and as interim chairman of Hewlett-Packard Co. over health concerns, said a statement from HP on Tuesday.
Mr. Whitworth is co-founder and principal of Relational, an activist investment manager, which has $6.3 billion in assets under management.
Mr. Whitworth's Relational leave is effective Tuesday and his HP resignation is effective Wednesday “to focus on his health,” said a Relational statement and the HP statement. Mr. Whitworth, appointed as an HP director in 2011, was named interim chairman 2013.
“The HP board of directors will discuss appointing a new chairman at its next board meeting,” the statement said.
Relational representatives declined to comment; HP media contacts could not be reached.
The $189.1 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento, a Relational client for more than 10 years, with $1.4 billion committed, expressed confidence in both companies.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Whitworth's family and Relational colleagues during this time,” Anne Sheehan, CalSTRS director of corporate governance, said in a statement. “CalSTRS was very sorry to hear this news from Relational … we have great confidence in their team to carry on during Ralph's leave. As for HP, they have a number of highly capable directors who can assume the role of chair following Ralph's departure.”
CalSTRS had 13.4 million HP shares, valued at $451 million, as of June 30.
Gary Hewitt, head of research, GMI Ratings, whose focus is environmental, social and corporate governance and forensic accounting research and analytics, said, “It would be best if (HP) involved investors” in the process to find a successor to Mr. Whitworth. HP already has a framework with proxy access making the company more open to involving shareholders in nominations, Mr. Hewitt added.
“It would be a step backward for a company that has had governance challenges in the past” to name a successor who is not an independent chairman, Mr. Hewitt said.