Carly Fiorina is looking for donors to help fund a run for 2016 GOP presidential nomination, she told Fox News on Sunday.
She’s hoping to win votes based on her achievements in the world of business.
There’s only one problem with that: her biggest achievement, becoming the first woman to run Hewlett-Packard, is widely regarded as a disaster.
This will be the second time she’s run for office. She ran against Barbara Boxer for a California senate seat in 2010, sinking millions of her own money into the campaign, and losing. During that race, the Boxer camp published an ad that blasted Fiorina’s time at HP.
Fiorina was HP’s CEO from 1999 to 2005, following Lewis Platt. Prior to that, she was a rising star at telecom equipment maker Lucent, where she led corporate operations when Lucent spun off from AT&T and then rose to become a top president there.
But her reign at HP ended in her ouster — as she described it in a 60 Minutes interview in 2006, she was suddenly, and without warning, fired. That was the first time HP ever fired a CEO. It wouldn’t be the last. Here’s what she’s known for at HP:
Buying Compaq over the strong objections of some board members. Fiorina is probably best known for leading HP into a very bitter and public board-level fight over the acquisition of Compaq. She wanted to buy the big PC rival and turn HP into the biggest PC maker. A faction of the board, led by Walter Hewlett (son of internally revered company co-founder William Hewlett), opposed the buy and launched a proxy fight.
Fiorina won the proxy fight, and HP bought Compaq for about $US19 billion in 2002.
But the integration of Compaq into HP was never smooth. Key Compaq executives reporting to Fiorina left or were ousted. And Fiorina angered many employees with a massive layoff right after the acquisition, cutting 15,000 HP jobs.
That said, the acquisition did turn HP into the largest PC maker, and it’s been consistently in the top three (trading places with Dell and Lenovo periodically) ever since.
Difficult relations with employees. Fiorina was accused of off-shoring thousands of HP jobs, and making the workers who lost their jobs train their overseas replacements. That became the subject of a nasty campaign video by Boxer’s camp.
Fiorina is also known internally for setting up a two-class system inside HP. She bought HP’s executives a fleet of corporate jets, and created special executive parking areas, complete with a barbed wire fence. That fence remained until Meg Whitman famously tore it down, and Whitman also moved executives out of their fancy offices and into cubicles. (Whitman kept the fleet of private planes, though, and uses them quite a lot.)
Many long-time HP employees still blame Fiorina for ruining HP’s previously laudable culture (known internally as “The HP Way”). HP originally helped usher in the open-door, treat-employees-well Valley culture exemplified by companies such as Google and Facebook today.
A plunging stock price. But the biggest problem: During her tenure, HP’s stock lost more than half its value.
To be fair, her tenure overlapped with the end of the dot-com bubble, and a lot of tech companies had similar stock price drops during that period as well. But HP’s stock performance was worse than other big tech companies, such as Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle, during her tenure.
Meanwhile, Fiorina’s pay continued to be handsome: All told, she made about $US100 million.
After Fiorina’s ouster, many articles labelled her among the worst performing CEOs.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of Yale University told USA Today at the time said she earned a place among “the worst because of her ruthless attack on the essence of this great company. … She destroyed half the wealth of her investors and yet still earned almost $US100 million in total payments for this destructive reign of terror.”
After Fiorina left HP appointed Patricia Dunn as chairwoman. The distrust sown between board members during the Compaq fight festered and grew under Dunn, who was later embroiled in a huge scandal trying to find a board member leaking information to the press.
HP’s board went on to hire and oust its next two CEOs, Mark Hurd and Leo Apotheker. Revenues began to tank. Under current CEO Meg Whitman, HP is now taking the drastic step of breaking itself into two companies.
While HP’s problems after Fiorina left can’t be blamed entirely on her, the cultural shift — a love of huge and problematic acquisitions accompanied by lots of intrigue at the board level — began with Fiorina’s reign.
In comparison, during Platt’s seven years as CEO, HP blossomed and revenues increased 187% to $US47.1 billion, He was considered the embodiment of the HP Way.
Since HP, Fiorina’s business experience mostly consisted of board seats on a handful of companies. She also served as a spokesperson for Republican National Committee, where she frequently appeared on political talk shows.
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