Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s top PR guy vaguely ‘threatens’ a FT columnist and gets skewered

Meg Whitman
HPE CEO Meg Whitman HP/Business Insider

A lot of people think they know what goes on behind-the-scenes in the world of media and journalism, but when it comes to a fight between a Financial Times columnist and HP Enterprise’s top PR person, you don’t have to guess.

FT Columnist Lucy Kellaway openly published a scathing reply to an email sent to her by HPE’s Henry Gomez in which he complained about an article she had written which criticised HPE CEO Meg Whitman.

So Gomez fired off an email to convince Kellaway why her column was wrong. And he ended the email with a vaguely worded “threat,” as Kellaway described it.

The threat was: “FT management should consider the impact of unacceptable biases on its relationships with advertisers,'” the email said.

The column in question was called “Boneheaded aphorisms from Davos’s windy summit,” and it was a list of things that business leaders said at the recent economic summit which Kellaway believed to be ridiculous.

The column began with something Whitman likes to say, “You can always go faster than you think you can.”

Kellaway’s believes that idea to be “nonsense. Often in business you can’t go nearly as fast as you fondly think you can. When you try, you fall on your face — and Ms Whitman, of all people, should know that,” she wrote.

HPE Henry Gomez
HPE chief marketing and communications officer Henry Gomez HPE

The column then went on to lambaste statements from a lot of other Davos speakers.

But the inclusion of Whitman was enough to get Gomez’s attention and to spur him to fire off that email.

Instead of just sending Gomez a bland response by email, Kellaway chose to “have this fight in public” in part because “I suspect readers are so starved of overt conflict in their own working lives they will enjoy witnessing a punch-up. “

She then dressed Gomez down for misunderstanding how journalism works. “It is my editors’ steadfast refusal to consider the impact of stories on advertisers that makes us the decent newspaper we are.”

And she pointed out that just because Whitman runs a big company, doesn’t mean that everything she says is unquestionably right. Finally, she pointed out that if the “the decision to advertise in the FT was right in the first place, it would seem crazy — and not in shareholders’ best interests — to change course based on pique.”

So for all the readers out there that assume that because a company advertises in a publication, that company is getting special privileges over what the publication writes, Kellaway has a message for you: “I fear you misunderstand our business model.”

We reached out to HPE for comment and will update when we hear back.

NOW WATCH: Here are the 4 best ads of Superbowl 50