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Carly Fiorina - Not the success story you think

Updated on September 11, 2015
RJ Schwartz profile image

I'm on the right side of politics and enjoy a good debate on government, the economy, common sense, and the rights of the people.

Her Life Leading Up to Hewlett-Packard

Do you know who Cara Carleton Sneed is? She’s now called Carly Fiorina, and she’s the second woman running for President as a Republican. Michelle Bachman had a brief primary run in 2012 but withdrew. She was born in Texas in 1954, to Joseph & Madelon Sneed, a Judge and Artist respectively. She spent her early life moving frequently, even living abroad in Ghana and in the United Kingdom where she attended school. She went to Stanford and received degrees in Philosophy and Medieval History. She dropped out of Law School after one semester and worked as a Real Estate Broker and an English teacher in Italy before returning to school to earn several graduate degrees.

Carly entered the business world at the tender age of 25, starting in an entry level job and within 15 years, help the position of Head of North American Operations for AT&T. She made a few bold business moves and later became President of a division of Lucent Technology. In 1999 she was hired by Hewlett-Packard as CEO with no real leadership experience and only a few direct interviews with Board members. She was the first outsider to run the company in over six decade and the first woman to head a Fortune 500 company listed on the Dow Jones Average. Her style was quite different than HP was used to seeing and she pushed forward a major merger deal with Compaq Computers in 2002. This merger barley passed shareholder voting and was contested by many inside the company including the two sons of the cofounders of the company, Walter Hewlett and David Packard. She made many strategic changes to the merged companies and elevated HP as one of the leading companies in charitable giving.

Rise and Fall as CEO

As the year 2004 passed, things began to sour at HP, with morale at an all-time low. Despite her claims that HP was leading the technology world, analysts reviewing the company portfolio did not see much change. Several top executives left the company to pursue other opportunities. Most of the company revenue still came from the lucrative printer division that was in place before the merger. In January of 2005, Carly was summoned to a Board meeting to discuss her performance. Following what the press called a “nasty and quite public fight,” she was fired from her leadership position. She blamed it on the fact that she challenged the status quo within the company and made too many enemies in the process. The HP leadership citing a falling stock price and her resistance of sharing authority with other department heads. Several leading technology publications collectively called her one of the worst technology CEO’s in history. Even her firing was sort of a spectacle, with the stock price rising 7% on the termination news that day.

Fiorina made many predictions of things she would accomplish at HP, including doubling annual revenues to $90 billion, tripling its rate of innovation to 11 patents a day, and leapfrogging ever other technology company to a leadership position in every product category and every market segment in which HP was invested in. Lofty aspirations yielded results that were less exciting. Revenues were doubled, but only through the often criticized merger with Compaq. Profits on the other hand remained flat the entire time she served as CEO and shareholder wealth was reduced dramatically. HP stock under Fiorina fell 65% from July 19, 1999, to Feb. 8, 2005, severely underperforming the S&P 500 Information Technology Sector index which was only down 15%. Net Income was also flat during her time at the helm, while the rest of the S&P showed a 70% increase on average in net income. She also saddled HP with a huge amount of debt.

Carly Fiorina earned about $100 million for herself during her tenure and left with a golden parachute worth $21 million. HP on the other hand has seen most of the assets from the Compaq deal either shuttered or sold in the last decade. Rough estimates are that 30,000 jobs were lost while she was in control. Since her firing, she really hasn’t done anything substantial in the business world. In 2008, InfoWorld grouped her with a list of products and ideas they deemed as flops, declaring her tenure as CEO of HP to be the sixth worst tech flop of all-time. She reversed the goodwill of American engineers and alienated existing customers. While serving on another company Board of Directors, she was criticized for only attending 17% of the Board meetings.

After HP - Political Aspirations

With few options left in the business world, she turned toward politics, philanthropy, and consulting. She was the fundraising chair for the Republican Nation Committee’s Victory initiative in 2008 and was rumored to be a potential Vice Presidential candidate. She disappeared from public view after a lengthy and harsh criticism of all Republican candidates running for the Presidential nomination citing that none of them had what it takes to run a big company like she had done. The backlash from this caused her to be dropped from future events and ignored. She published an autobiography that served as a tome of self-promotion, got herself appointed to a few corporate boards, did a stint on a TV News program, and even worked on the failed campaign of Sen. John McCain in his Presidential run. She ran for the US Senate in California but was beaten by nearly 10 points running against incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer. During her campaign, she was called out by a reporter who discovered that she rarely voted in any elections. She was known to have accepted large contributions from the Koch brother, the coal industry and called global warming a serious issue. Nearly a half million dollars in debt from Fiorina's failed campaign remained unpaid until May 2015. Former campaign workers questioned her budgeting of the failed campaign and many cited they would not work for her in the future. Afterwards she had spoken about a potential run for Governor of California but instead chose to throw her hat in the ring for the Presidential nomination.

Summary - She Just Doesn't Have It

At this juncture in the nomination process, there are many people who sing her praises. It’s fairly obvious that her being the only woman in the race is a great angle since she is the only candidate who can make critical statements about Hillary Clinton without being open to sexist rhetoric from members of the press. She seemed to make enough positive points in the early debate to grow her support base, but many of those are probably uninformed of her less-than-stellar leadership history. She still claims to this day that the “technology bubble” was the catalyst for most of the poor results while she was at the helm of HP, yet many of those decisions she made are still keeping the company far below the rest of the field. We are left with an unsettled feeling about her longevity, especially if she climbs in the polling. She’ll be under the microscope in the media and there will be more comparisons made to her and frontrunner Donald Trump, most of which will identify Trump as the clear winner. We can also expect to see her image as an outsider quickly damaged when more people see her work with the Republican Party establishment.

The more people search out her past, the more they will find that she has an exaggerated view of her track record and she tends to make excuses and blame others for her failures, quite similar to our current President. She has no real job creation credentials and the fact that so many were displaced during her only real leadership job plays poorly to a voter base already suffering from nearly a decade of bleak employment opportunities. She seems to talk a lot about how much of a woman trailblazer she is but is against many issues which are important to woman voters such as paid maternity leave and equal pay, not that these are Republican issues but they most certainly will be used when making comparisons between her and Hillary Clinton. Her leadership style and unwillingness to share decision making will

What is your view on Carly now that you've learned more about her past? Please keep your comments civil. Thanks !


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