PR teams make final moves as HP-Compaq merger decision nears

PALO ALTO, CA: The PR teams for the opponents and proponents of the Hewlett-Packard-Compaq merger have entered the final phase of their battle before Tuesday's vote in which HP shareholders will decide whether to approve the deal.

PALO ALTO, CA: The PR teams for the opponents and proponents of the Hewlett-Packard-Compaq merger have entered the final phase of their battle before Tuesday's vote in which HP shareholders will decide whether to approve the deal.

Both sides have wooed institutional shareholders as well as top-tier business media. Walter Hewlett, son of cofounder William Hewlett, led the merger opposition, a view subsequently backed by Bank of America and Brandes Investment Partners, among others.

Those endorsing the merger, egged on by HP CEO Carly Fiorina's personal IR and PR push, include Institutional Shareholder Services and Putnam Investments. Both sides say they are fighting for the best interests of the company.

Regardless of vote results, the companies face a stiff internal and external PR challenge. "The family has the company's interests at heart, but they have damaged it with strident and personal attacks on (Fiorina),

said Donovan Neale-May, president of tech firm Neale-May & Partners. On the other hand, Neale-May said Fiorina acted alone for too long. "The load should have been carried by other people in the organization."

Hewlett retained Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher for the IR push, while HP has been working with Citigate Sard Verbinnen. PR teams for both sides have been working continuously to keep up with the media onslaught.

"This is the most amount of press I've seen in years,

said Joele Frank.

Her team has been on call from 8am-9pm, seven days a week, for six straight weeks.

HP has PR teams working in New York, Palo Alto, CA, and Houston. "We believe the entire Hewlett team is smaller than HP's communications team alone,

Frank said.

HP spokesperson Rebeca Robboy said, "The PR team - including in-house and agencies - starts its day at 6am with a team conference call, and works well into the evening most days. Dueling statements have also meant weekend work, and there is a constant barrage of reporter check-ins for news at all hours."

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