Here in one sweeping article is ammunition for anyone wanting to expose the lies and distortions that Carly Fiorina peddles about her record. It is by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the senior associate dean of Leadership Studies and Lester Crown Professor of Practice Management at the Yale School of Management, whom both Donald Trump and Fiorina mentioned in the last debate.
Here are the facts: In the five years that Fiorina was at Hewlett-Packard, the company lost over half its value. It’s true that many tech companies had trouble during this period of the Internet bubble collapse, some falling in value as much as 27 percent; but HP under Fiorina fell 55 percent. During those years, stocks in companies like Apple and Dell rose. Google went public, and Facebook was launched. The S&P 500 yardstick on major U.S. firms showed only a 7 percent drop. Plenty good was happening in U.S. industry and in technology.
It was Fiorina’s failed leadership that brought her company down… 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 Fiorina 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. After the firing, HP shuttered or sold virtually all Fiorina had bought.
During the debate, Fiorina countered that she wasn’t a failure because she doubled revenues. That’s an empty measurement. What good is doubling revenue by acquiring a huge company if you’re not making any profit from it? The goals of business are to raise profits, increase employment and add value. During Fiorina’s tenure, thanks to the Compaq deal, profits fell, employees were laid off and value plummeted. Fiorina was paid over $100 million for this accomplishment.
She plays fast and loose with highly misleading metrics, changing the goal posts by manipulating peer comparisons. Fiorina brags that she doubled revenues—but she cut value in half. She talks about doubling employment at HP when all she did was combine the employment of two huge firms—and then lay off 30,000 employees. She presents her story as rags to riches saga, from secretary to CEO, when in fact she is the daughter of a Duke University Law School dean and a federal Appeals Court judge. She just worked for a few months as a receptionist after dropping out of UCLA law school.
Sonnenfeld also poses what he calls the obvious question: “If the [HP] board was wrong [to fire her], the employees wrong, and the shareholders wrong—as Fiorina maintains—why in 10 years has she never been offered another public company to run?”
It is a blistering, fact-based piece and you can be sure that it will be carefully filed away by her opponents in both parties to be used when needed.
Incidentally, Fiorina has been making hay from Donald Trump’s comments about her looks that he made in a private setting but when she ran (and lost) against Barbara Boxer for the US Senate seat in California, she made derogatory comments about her opponent’s looks too, that were captured when she did not realize she was being recorded. Her comment about Boxer is at the 4:07 mark.