Meg Whitman new HP CEO. What firm has more CEO change?

Fortune 500 companies are supposed to be stable, rock-solid institutions, where CEO change rarely happens. But it doesn't always happen that way. Just ask Hewlett-Packard, which announced Thursday that Meg Whitman would be the company's new chief executive officer, the fourth HP CEO in six years. In the past six years, only 16 companies on the Fortune 500 or S&P 500 have had three CEOs, according to executive search firm Crist Kolder Associates in Hinsdale, Ill. Besides HP, only two have had four or more. Can you guess who these CEO change champions are? [Editor's note: This story was updated 9/23/2011.]

3. Hewlett-Packard – 4 CEOS

Jose Luis Villegas/Reuters/File
Hewlett-Packard named former eBay head Meg Whitman (pictured here in a 2010 file photo) as its new president and CEO, replacing unpopular leader Léo Apotheker at the helm of the largest US technology company. This makes the fourth HP CEO since 2005, a troubling record of CEO change.

The legendary garage startup that became a technology giant has fallen on hard times in the past decade. Carly Fiorina, who took over in 1999, oversaw the company's expansion in the PC market with some acquisitions that didn't provide the expected boost to business. In 2005, the board replaced her with Mark Hurd, who won high marks for refocusing the company but resigned in 2010 after a sexual-harassment investigation uncovered irregularities with his expense account. Former SAP CEO Léo Apotheker took over last year and tried to move the company away from personal computer hardware and toward software services, a transformation that IBM executed successfully. But after lowering the company's financial outlook three times in his 10-month tenure, he ran out of time. On Sept. 22, the board replaced him with Ms. Whitman, the successful eBay CEO who left in 2007 and ran for governor of California in 2010.

"You tend to see turnover when performance is poor, which it has been – certainly lately," says Steven Kaplan, a finance professor who has studied corporate governance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. "It also suggests a board that is not doing a good job."

The company's stock has lost two-thirds of its value since hitting its dot-com peak in 2000, in sharp contrast to Apple, whose share price has soared.

But rapid CEO change isn't unique to HP. There's...

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