HP/COMPAQ: Hewlett holds onto hope on HP/Compaq deal

Dissenting HP board member Walter Hewlett has told reporters that he remains confident of victory despite claims by Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairwoman and CEO Carly Fiorina that her side won the shareholder vote on the proposed HP/Compaq Computer Corp. merger.

After delivering a prepared statement in which he repeated his often-stated reasons for opposing the merger, Hewlett said that the vote is too close to call for Fiorina to make victory claims and said he believes the eventual outcome will actually sink the merger.

"We are optimistic about the certified outcome," Hewlett said. But in response to several questions, he acknowledged that the vote is still too close to call. "The result isn't known and the margin is razor-thin," he said.

Asked why he thought Fiorina is claiming victory, Hewlett replied: "I cannot get inside the head of other people, so I cannot say why the company is saying what they are saying."

If the merger does succeed, Hewlett said he would not rule out the possibility of seeking a recount of the ballots. He said that would be determined later.

He also said he did not regret the sale of millions of shares of company stock by the Hewlett Foundation prior to the vote, even though those shares could have carried the winning margin now. He said the foundation has a stock committee on which he does not serve, and he stands by its decision and the job it has done.

Whatever the outcome, Hewlett said he would like to remain active in HP affairs and would like to remain a member of the company's board of directors. Hewlett would have to be nominated and re-elected to the board in order to serve another term.

He also said that he would not divest his shares or ask that the foundation sell any of its shares.

"We are long-time investors and we are certainly not going to react to any short-term swings in the market or short-term speculation about the results," Hewlett said.

Despite the often raucous tenor of the campaign over the merger deal, Hewlett said he does not harbor any ill will toward Fiorina and other company officials and said that his opposition to the merger was never about Fiorina's leadership. The campaign, he said, was about "shareholder value" -- a phrase he repeated over and over again during the news conference.

"I never took anything in this campaign personally, the only thing I have taken personally is the drop in the stock price," Hewlett said.

In the end, Hewlett said he looks forward to getting back to work as "an academic and a musician," a joking reference to a remark Fiorina aimed at him early in the campaign. The comment drew laughs from the reporters at the event.

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