Fiorina: HP Was 'Afraid to Face The Future'

Former CEO says she doesn't believe she was overpaid; tried to transform HP from a bureaucracy in love with itself to a meritocracy.
Posted October 20, 2006
By

David Needle


Within a few weeks Fiorina said she thinks some board members concluded "we don't have to take this anymore."

Later she said the HP was "... faced with an emotional set of events, about how the company should be organized ... some people decided to put that on the front page of the Wall Street Journal to pressure the situation"

Former board member George Keyworth has admitted to being the source of some of the press leaks and fellow ex-board member Tom Perkins later confirmed he was a second unnamed source for some stories.

Bud Michael, CEO of Availigent, was one of several dozen people waiting in line after Fiorina's talk to get a copy of her book signed.

He said he could relate directly to what Fiorina discussed because he had been dismissed as CEO earlier in his career without explanation by the board of a small company.

"What she's talking about does happen," Michael told internetnews.com. "What's missing from all the coverage about the HP leaks is that board members leaked information and that was a great breach of fiduciary responsibility."

He gives Fiorina credit for her attempts to speak plainly about the problems HP faced.

"Most people prefer to be liked and not be confrontational, but sometimes you have to be if you want to get anywhere."

While many are now giving Fiorina credit for righting the HP ship, she recalled that "many in the Valley thought I deserved to be fired; clearly the media did."

But however perturbed the board might have been over her attempts to plug leaks, the larger, lingering issue was the bruising battle she led to complete the largest merger in the tech industry with Compaq, and the fallout from the 36,000 layoffs that followed.

"I think the negative press and pressure on the stock price absolutely created pressure on the board," said Fiorina.

The problems on the board exploded under her successor Mark Hurd's watch and the pretexting scandal that ensued. But Fiorina defended a lot of the board's work during her tenure.

"Until the vote to fire me, every vote was unanimous, and every one the result of a very deliberate debate and decision-making process."

One of those votes was the operational plan for 2005, which HP went on to execute with great success after Fiorina's departure.

On other topics, Fiorina said it was "ridiculous" she was named the most powerful woman in business by Fortune in 1998 ahead of Oprah Winfrey and others.

She said she didn't like the ranking of top execs, which makes it seems more like a tennis tournament than a meritocracy where everyone has an equal chance to succeed.

While some criticized her as a celebrity CEO for her decision to give a keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show and other high-profile media appearances, she said such decisions were always made with an eye to how it could help HP, a company she said was too rooted in its past and "afraid to face the future."

"It was hugely important to take the HP brand, that was known as stodgy and increasingly irrelevant, and, with all due respect, middle-aged white man ... and move it forward to something hip, forward-looking and relevant."

She also noted several other tech CEOs followed her lead in keynoting the CES show.

This article was first published on InternetNews.com. To read the full article, click here.






Comment and Contribute

 


(Maximum characters: 1200). You have characters left.