In the Republican nomination field, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina will face off as the only two candidates that have also served as CEOs of major corporations. Quick to tip the comparison in his favor, Donald took the opportunity to besmirch Carly’s record as a CEO at Hewlett-Packard during Wednesday night’s debates. Even worse for Fiorina, Trump came prepared with research.
Donald cited a paper written by Yale School of Management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld where he names Carly’s time at HP as one of the most disastrous in tech history. On Sunday, Politico Magazine published Jeffrey’s own response to Trump invoking his name on such a wide platform, as well as a detailed personal and professional takedown of Fiorina herself.
Even without Sonnenfeld’s analysis, there are quite a few red flags that Carly may have made some missteps at the company. For one, Hewlett-Packard lost more than half its value while she was CEO. For another, Fiorina was eventually voted out as CEO by the HP board of directors.
“It was Carly’s failed leadership that brought her company down. After an unsuccessful attempt to catch up to IBM’s growth in IT services by buying PricewaterhouseCooper’s consulting business (PwC, ironically, ended up going to IBM instead), she abruptly abandoned the strategic goal of expanding IT services and consulting and moved into heavy metal. At a time that devices had become a low margin commodity business, Fiorina bought for $25 billion the dying Compaq computer company, which was composed of other failed businesses. Unsurprisingly, the Compaq deal never generated the profits Carly hoped for, and HP’s stock price fell by half. The only stock pop under Fiorina’s reign was the 7 percent jump the moment she was fired following a unanimous board vote.”
Sonnenfeld goes on to deride Carly for her headstrong, unapologetic way of doing business, citing it as one of the major reasons she was such a bad CEO. Furthermore, he says, she’s dishonest with the public about her background, “presenting her story as rags to riches saga” when her parents are actually quite wealthy.
While Fiorina’s CEO record may not be pristine, that doesn’t mean that everyone blames HP’s demise on her. Bloomberg ran an article noting that the company faced similar failures to many of its peer companies, and that no CEO after Carly had been able to pull the company back on the right track either. Sonnenfeld, however, maintains that several companies not headed by Fiorina were able to succeed during the same period.
What do you think about Carly Fiorina’s record as CEO of Hewlett-Packard?
[Image via Sean Rayford/Getty Images]