America's top woman executive, the imperious and controversial Carly Fiorina, walked the platinum plank Wednesday after five and a half years in the driving seat at Hewlett-Packard.

The HP board wasted no time in expunging Fiorina from its memory banks. Even before the first earlybirds flew into their gilded cage at HP's Californian headquarters, the biography of the former chairman/ceo had been erased from the company's website.

According to the HP board, it had decided to trade-in Carly for a chief executive better able to drive profitability and provide a "hands-on" leadership style. The move gladdened the steely heart of Wall Street, with HP shares closing 6.9% up on Wednesday at $21.53 (€16.83; £11.59).

Robert Wayman, chief financial officer, was named interim chief executive and HP said it would immediately begin a search for a permanent successor. Another HP director, Patricia Dunnis is appointed non-executive chairman of the board.

In the five-plus years that Fiorina helmed HP, the value of its shares declined by around fifty percent, much of the shrinkage reflecting investors' unease at her bulldozing the acquisition of Compaq Computer in 2002.

Some analysts also attribute the share slump to Fiorina's positioning of HP in the IT marketplace - wedged between Dell Computer's low cost strategy at one end and IBM's high-ticket gameplan at the other.

The pain of Fiorina's passing will be anesthetized by a $21m severance package. Said she: "While I regret the board and I have differences about how to execute HP's strategy, I respect their decision."

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff