Carly Fiorina Really Was That Bad
SEPT. 25, 2015
HER silver tongue honed by decades in corporate marketing, Carly Fiorina has used two debates, and a steely determination on the campaign trail, to climb near the top of the polls for the Republican nomination.
But Americans should pause on her biggest professional credential for our highest office: a short, disastrous stint atop one of America’s iconic technology companies, Hewlett-Packard.
The clearest measure of her performance — and the report card preferred by Wall Street — is H.P.’s stock price, which dropped by 52 percent during her tenure of almost six years.
Yes, Mrs. Fiorina served during the worst fall in technology shares in history. But she managed to underperform her key competitors; IBM’s shares declined by 27.5 percent and Dell’s fell by 3 percent.
The most ruinous aspect of Mrs. Fiorina’s tenure was her decision to acquire another “old tech” hardware company, Compaq Computer Corporation, instead of moving more heavily into services and software, as IBM did.
Carly Fiorina at the Republican presidential debate last week. Credit Max Whittaker for The New York Times The proposed merger — Mrs. Fiorina pronounced that the two companies “fit together like a zipper” — bitterly divided directors and shareholders and was approved with just a 51.4 percent majority, a split I cannot recall seeing elsewhere during my 33-year Wall Street career.
To be fair, Mrs. Fiorina was saddled with a dysfunctional board. But that was well known, so taking the job with that added complexity was her eyes-wide-open choice.
Investors were so down on her that H.P.’s shares jumped by almost 7 percent on the day of her firing. And in ensuing years, she appeared on several “worst C.E.O.” lists, including those of CBS News and USA Today.
In 2009, Portfolio magazine ranked her the 19th worst C.E.O. of all time and described her as a “consummate self-promoter” who was “busy pontificating on the lecture circuit and posing for magazine covers while her company floundered.” (That sounds like good preparation for running for president.)
Mrs. Fiorina tries to obscure these harsh realities with a blizzard of her own “facts.” On the campaign trail, for example, she speaks of having doubled her company’s revenues. However, most of that increase came from adding in Compaq’s sales, which is a misleading way to calculate revenue growth.
While some of the intricacies of Mrs. Fiorina’s performance may elude voters amid the dust storm that she has kicked up, her compensation won’t. She banked $21 million in severance payments as part of the more than $100 million in compensation she received during what one critic called her “destructive reign of terror” (which included pushing for H.P. to acquire five corporate jets.)
In the course of her losing Senate run in 2010, she was also attacked for the 30,000 layoffs that occurred at H.P. during her tenure. That’s not entirely fair — the entire technology industry was going through a downsizing and H.P.’s total employment ultimately climbed back up — but it was deadly effective politics that could doubtless be repeated in 2016.
Less attention has been paid to her time at Lucent Technologies, where she rose through the marketing ranks, learning the sales techniques that she is now putting to good use on the stump.
Soon after she left, Lucent veered off a cliff, and while she was never the chief executive, part of the company’s collapse stemmed from overly aggressive sales and loans to financially shaky customers made under her supervision.
Strikingly few former colleagues have come to Mrs. Fiorina’s defense. And her most prominent advocate, the venture capitalist Tom Perkins, has his own challenges; last year, he compared the criticisms of wealthy Americans to the attacks on Jews during Kristallnacht.
In a recent essay, Mrs. Fiorina noted that many other successful business leaders — Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney and Michael Bloomberg — were all fired at one point in their careers.
The difference, however, is that all four went on to achieve remarkable business success; Mrs. Fiorina has not held a full-time private sector job since she left H.P. in 2005 — perhaps because no one sought her services.
I certainly recognize that corporate accomplishments are not a prerequisite for a government perch. Indeed, many chief executives fail when they move from the command-and-control business environment to Washington, where consensus-building is a necessity.
However, the lack of public service or sustained business success makes Mrs. Fiorina unqualified for the nation’s highest office. By comparison, Mitt Romney had built an extraordinarily successful investment firm and served for four years as governor of Massachusetts.
Crooning on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” as Mrs. Fiorina did recently, may add some glitter to her persona, but the important gaps in achievement remain.
Carly Fiorina presided over a tough time at HP, and her performance draws strong feelings. (DOUG KANTER/AFP/Getty Images)
Fiorina’s record at HP defines her candidacy — which could be a problem
Other metrics of HP’s performance paint a more revealing portrait of the company’s downfall. Under Fiorina, company shares collapsed more than 50 percent, far worse than those of competitors such as IBM and Dell and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index. The year she left, HP profits were $1 billion less than when she started, even though the company was twice the size.
As Brad Whitworth, an 18-year HP veteran and former senior communications and marketing manager, put it, “Carly has never let facts get in the way of her being able to tell a story.”
Her flamboyance stood out at humble HP. Employees grumbled when her portrait was speedily hung in the lobby beside those of founders William Hewlett and David Packard, and some whispered that the flashy promotions seemed to have little to do with the company’s workhorse home-office product lines. As business author Jim Collins wrote then in the Wall Street Journal, “Whose brand was she building anyway?”
As HP’s fortunes sank, Fiorina’s take-home pay soared. She averaged $3 million in salary and bonuses every year, not counting her tens of millions of dollars in stock options, company proxy statements show. Other high-level spending saw big boosts: HP replaced two aging planes with Gulfstream IV jets and leased a fifth plane — particularly beneficial for Fiorina, whose contract allowed her personal use of the company’s air fleet.
Fiorina also reprised her leading role as celebrity CEO. She walked the red carpet at the 2004 Academy Awards and, at HP keynotes and Las Vegas electronic shows, posed with stars such as Sheryl Crow, Dr. Dre, Alicia Keys and Matt Damon, who joked, “I think I’m married to Carly, I’ve thanked her so much today.”
9/26/2015 11:16 PM EST [Edited]
The WSJ calls her a liar-
The Post says the same-
The NY Times isn’t buying her spiel-
And neither is Chris Wallace at Fox-
Carly’s succeeded in bringing the country together- in contempt for her.
11:16 PM EST
I was an HP employee during her tenure. She was the queen of platitudes, a rock star wannabee, and little else.
11:10 PM EST
It does not matter what she did at HP. She still cannot beat Trump.
Trump is the only candidate in either party with enough sense or cents to bring the factories home and kick out the illegal workers.
Only the really delusional believe that America can survive while spending 1- 2 BILLION more every day on imports than other countries spend on our exports.
11:00 PM EST
Fiorina was a marketing person who trashed the tremendous technical prowess of HP. Of course running for and getting elected to public office is a lot more about marketing than it is about making things work once one is in charge.
Carly Fiorina’s ‘secretary to CEO’ career trajectory (Fact Checker biography)
Why should we hire Carly Fiorina for president?
9/23/2015 7:35 PM EST
For a publicly held corporation – the CEO’s main measure of success or failure is the share price of the organization. During Fiorina’s tenure the value of HP basically was cut in half. When she talks about “growth” she refers to revenues which she claims doubled during her tenure without noting that much of the increase was due to the acquisition of Compaq. Even Trump with his casino bankruptcies would love to have Carly gamble at his place – she would double down on her bets and lose twice as much. The creditors of Trump’s businesses and the HP shareholders during Fiorina’s tenure might offer negative opinions to counter the brash claims of both – but are probably quiet out of the embarrassment that would come from publicly admitting they invested or loaned money to either of them.
Many people do have financial misfortunes but contrary to Trump and Fiorina they seem to have been humbled by them before running for high office while these two seem to brag about it. By living humbly, Pope Francis is revered by millions and will always be far more respected than these two who spend lavishly on themselves and belittle the poor. What’s that Bible verse about the meek inheriting the earth? Neither Trump nor Fiorina should be expecting that inheritance.
9/23/2015 5:24 PM EST
Fiorina tells falsehoods with a smile on her face.
Trump tells them with a sneer.
Rubio did it on his website.
Carson is displaying his ignorance and bigotry.
Bush is a shill for the wealthy.
Then again, so are all the rest in the party’s leadership.
What do they all seem to offer?
Americans and foreigners to loathe, good news for the wealthy, bad news for the rest.
What a mess of a mob the Republican Party has become.
9/23/2015 4:52 PM EST
On the campaign trail this year, Carly Fiorina has been a staunch advocate of keeping crippling sanctions on Iran, but under her leadership, Hewlett-Packard sold hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of products to Iran through a foreign subsidiary, despite strict U.S. export sanctions.
Fiorina, who served as chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005, often criticizes President Obama’s deal with Iran on the basis that he is agreeing to sanctions relief for Iran too quickly and in exchange for paltry concessions on the part of Tehran. In April, she said Iran sanctions were “unraveling fast,” something she called a “dangerous development.”
Fiorina often cites her time as a corporate executive as a credential for running for president and said in July she would back away from the Iran deal if elected and renegotiate. She has also warned that European countries, as well as Russia and China, are rushing “to open the Iranian economy.” She has also accused Iran of cheating on sanctions.
What Fiorina never mentions on the stump is that while she was in charge, Hewlett-Packard used a European subsidiary and a Middle East distributor to sell hundreds of millions of dollars of printers and other computer equipment to Iran.
9/23/2015 4:10 PM EST [Edited]
What the -ell has Hillary ever “grown”. 30 years ago she was living in the Governor’s mansion in Arkansas on $30,000/year. On to the Whitehouse and then to the U.S. Senate and then to Sect’y.. of State. She’s been on the public dole for more than half her life.
9/23/2015 5:27 PM EST
And your opinion of Hillary doesn’t keep Fiorina and Trump and the rest from being deficient in leadership, clueless about immigrants, supplicants to the wealthy, and ready to hate their fellow citizens for fun and profit.
9/23/2015 12:29 PM EST
Well that question can be asked of all candidates including those on the radical left like Clinton and Sanders. So the why should we hire a candidate is a good question. So let’s drill down a bit on the radical left side. Why should we hire Clinton? She is obviously dishonest and lies all the time do we want someone like that in the White House. Throughout her political career she has been involved in multiple scandals and she is not a likable person. She is untrustworthy and corrupt and uses her positions of power for her own self benefit and she is a establishment elite that uses her political positions to reward her friends and punish her enemies and she is part of the corrupt political class. Now move on to Bernie Sanders he is a communist and wants to take property and money from hard working Americans and to redistribute the property and money to dead-beats and moochers who contribute nothing to the common good. He wants to spend $10 trillion dollars or more on redistribution over the next ten years bring our total national debt to $37 trillion dollars. So the question for the radical left establishment elites like you is why would we want to hire a crook, corrupt, serial liar that is untrustworthy or why would we want to hire a communist. I submit we don’t want to hire either one of them. ————- Trump 2016
9/23/2015 3:49 PM EST
So Trump’s 4 bankruptcies that resulted in both private citizens/companies losing money as well as the taxpayer mean absolutely nothing to you??? If so I’d love to do business with you so I can have you work for me, have my company declare bankruptcy and either pay you back pennies on the dollar or nothing at all. I’ve looked at his website and I’m still trying to find the details on: foreign and domestic policy, education, transportation, infrastructure, immigration (let’s go with a little more than what he’s said on television) et al. When you and his other supporter can give me some substance – then I’ll listen. But I’m still waiting..
Herbert M Yood
9/23/2015 11:59 AM EST
You ask the key question of Ms.Fiorina, but she shines, especially in contrast to the Democrat entry in the Female Sweepstakes. Dame Hillary is floundering, and she may be on the way out. But thus far, Ms. Fiorina seems a class act. Hillary? Keep away from all job that require a person who knows that responsibility is more than saying, “oops.” And consider this the management track record of such luminaries as Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, John F. Kennedy
9/23/2015 9:33 AM EST
Only 4 candidates are not afraid of their own shadow to speak to the hustlers, Trump, Fiorina, Carson and Cruz. We need a high energy, trustworthy person in the WH this time around…
9/23/2015 3:27 PM EST
Not them !!
9/23/2015 9:26 AM EST
Ms Fiorina was fired by the board of directors. It’s as simple as that and no amount of bs will change it.
Carly Fiorina Really Was That Bad