HP loses CEO to testosterone poisoning

HP loses CEO to testosterone poisoning

So Hewlett Packard, or HP as it prefers to be known these days, finally dumped its abrasive CEO, Carly Fiorina. (She got $21 million in severance: would that I should be so dumped.) But the company is apparently still on the crazed trajectory on which she had launched it. HP used to be a company which had a great printer business and an indifferent PC business. Fiorina’s Big Idea was straight MBA-rookie stuff — go for a big merger/takeover. The unlucky bride was Compaq, a PC maker in terminal decline. It didn’t work. HP is now a company with (still) a vibrant printer business and a duff PC business. Seven wasted years. What I hadn’t quite realised was how hated she was in the company. HP was famous for its civilised, unaggressive collegial atmosphere. Carly was primadonnish and abrasive (and female). A measure of the antagonism she aroused is Invert Parody.com, a satirical website devoted to the affairs of the PH company and its abrasive female CEO Karla Fidora. Here’s a flavour:

“She came to PH from the Great American Wire and Cable Company, where she led the divesture of the firm’s wire and cable businesses.  She later admitted ‘that left us with just the Great American Company and no real products. Clearly we should have thought that one through a little more.’ She then focused on finding Great American a great new name and facilitated its strategic plunge into bankruptcy.

Fidora was then hired to re-invert the PH Corporation, a company known for little more than world class products and happy employees. It was a status quo that worried competitors and Fidora was committed to turning it around. With a twin strategy of abandoning high margin businesses or selling them to competitors; and acquiring struggling companies in low margin industries at exorbitant premiums, she was able to execute one of the great turnarounds in corporate history.

Fidora was a favorite of employees and personally helped tens of thousands of them move onto their dream of early retirement or new careers in the fast food industry.”

Paul Sraffa, of the Institute for the Future, observed of Fiorina that she had “the worst case of testosterone poisoning of any CEO I’ve ever seen”.