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Friday, 25 September 2015 09:13

Fiorina's Bad Business

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Carly Fiorina Carly Fiorina

After last weeks’ debate, several media sources immediately began to push Carly Fiorina as a possible front-runner for the upcoming Republican nomination. Based on coverage by almost all Big Media the past few months there is little doubt Fiorina’s new support is part of a continuing effort by the power structure to discredit Donald Trump and loosen his popularity with voters.

"I think Mr. Trump's going to be hearing quite a lot from me," said Fiorina in an interview with news agency, CNBC just before the second Republican debate.
"Donald Trump and I are in totally different businesses," said Fiorina. "He's in the entertainment business. And he's also in a privately held business. In the business I was in, we had to report our results publicly, as you well know, in excruciating detail, quarter after quarter after quarter."
She also quipped, "When you file for bankruptcy four times, I think it suggests either lack of judgment or lack of discipline."
To be fair, there was an immediate response to the bankruptcy allegations and while Trump has been involved in bankruptcies they have all been common, routine bankruptcies for businesses where he has held an interest. He has never filed for a personal bankruptcy. This seems to be known to voters as none of the attacks have made a dent in Trumps lead.
But as several political commentators have suggested, Fiorina needs to be careful since her claim to fame – success as a CEO of Hewlett-Packard, is “widely regarded as a failure” by those intimate with the details of her tenure with the computer giant.
Fiorina has frequently been called, “one of the worst CEO’s in America.”
Consider an article in USA today published in 2005. There, Yale Business Professor, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld said that Fiorina was "the worst because of her ruthless attack on the essence of this great company. ... She destroyed half the wealth of her investors and yet still earned almost $100 million in total payments for this destructive reign of terror."
And coverage immediately after this recent debate said that Trump would quickly bring this up to voters if Fiorina actually started to gain serious traction – which she has not to date despite the recent surge in articles touting her “rise.”
According to Business Insider, “Trump is quick-witted, and incisive. He is really good at delivering campaign-ending insults. Fiorina appears ready to serve Trump a softball if she's going to run on her business record.”
Insider reached out to Sonnenfeld – who is now a senior Associate Dean at - regarding his 2005 article and asked him if he still feels Fiorina was a terrible CEO.
"Yes — I stand by what I said," he said. "The only things I would add are ... the board’s wisdom in her unanimous firing was vindicated by the fact that there has been no exoneration or contrition."
Sonnenfeld added that, while Fiorina was leading HP, "virtually everything she bought ... has been shuttered or divested." He pointed out — and the emphasis is Sonnedfelds — that "She has NEVER been offered another CEO position in the decade since."
Furthermore, she was asked to leave Taiwan Semiconductor's board in 2009 "as she only attended 17 percent of their board meetings."
Before she was CEO of HP, she worked for telecom equipment maker, Lucent, where she was in charge of spinning off Lucent from AT&T. For her role in that transition, she was promoted to a top president’s position.
Yet, even her tenure at Lucent generated substantial controversy. According to Arik Hesseldahl of Re/Code, She worked as a leader in the sales area and was knee-deep in Lucent's aggressive lending practices, loaning money to customers to buy Lucent equipment, Hesseldahl reported. A few years after she left, Lucent crashed big, not helped by $7 billion in loans to customers — some of which were out of business.
Fiorina was the CEO of HP from 1999 to early 2005. Her firing from HP made big headlines at the time. It is also noteworthy that HP stock plunged from the time she was hired until she was fired. At her hiring, in 1999, the price was around $55 per share. At the time of her firing it had plummeted to approximately $19 after the company seriously “missed earning expectations,” according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.
Business Insider points out that “her tenure overlapped with the end of the dot-com bubble, and a lot of tech companies had similar stock price drops during that period.” But, according to the same article, that under Fiorina, “HP's stock performance was worse during this time than other big tech companies, such as Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle.”
Fiorina is also well-known for buying rival Compaq while she was at HP. Over strong objections from some Board of Directors including a group headed by Walter Hewitt – son HP founder, William Hewlett- Fiorina won a proxy battle and purchased Compaq for close to $19 billion in 2002.
Adding to the negatives from that acquisition, Fiorina had to cut up to 30,000 jobs at HP and fired many key Compaq executives. The transition was anything but smooth.
It did, however, turn HP into the largest PC maker at the time, though this position has since been shared by Dell or Lenovo.
Fiorina has repeatedly pointed out during her campaign speeches that after the acquisition, HP’s revenues were a lot bigger and that it ultimately employed “a lot more people.”
But the truth is that HP’s revenue declined. Fiorina’s campaign likes to say that HP’s growth rate grew from 2% to 9% while she was CEO of the company, but a disclosure by Glenn Kessler from the Washington Post, shows annual revenue growth “declined from 7% right before she took over to 3% when she left.”
Business Insider also points to “another problem with her growth: She bought it. She didn't organically grow HP's business.”
The New York Times has also reported on how the growth at HP was managed by Fiorina.
"Here's the problem: Those numbers she is referencing aren’t Hewlett-Packard's profit. They are the company's revenue. And if you make enough acquisitions — especially one the size of Compaq — you can inflate your revenue figures. You can also buy growth," said Andrew Ross Sorkin in a recent New York Times column.
Using acquisitions to grow revenue is a common business tactic; it isn’t necessarily a wrong move. Businesses use the tactic all the time. For some it’s just a smart management maneuver.
But as Business Insider noted, “Fiorina is running on a platform of cutting down the size of the government. There's no smaller nation she can go out and buy to grow the US's GDP.”
Fiorina has said her approach to economic reform if she is elected will be an overhaul of US tax law.
"I'm in favor of revenue-reducing tax reform. The government spends too much money."
In fairness, Fiorina has supporters who like her style of hardline management. Former HP board member Tom Perkins once took out a full page ad to defend his CEO.
"Not only did she save the company from the dire straits it was in, she laid the foundation for HP's future growth," he wrote.
Perkins, however, is not without controversy and many felt he gained personally from Fiorina’s management decisions. For example, he had a substantial investment in Compaq and did quite well financially due to the merger Fiorina pushed so hard to achieve.
He has also remained in the news for some pretty controversial comments, including comparisons of rich people bashing to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. According to Business Insider, he also once said, “rich people should get more votes in election.” Hardly the defender Fiorina needs to gather support from Americas fed up with insider politics.
Since leaving HP, Fiorina’s business experience has been limited to a few board seats on a handful of companies and service as a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
Will she continue to resonate and grow support from voters for her bid to be the next Republican nominee? Can she usurp Donald Trump’s front runner position, a slot gained from his perception as “not a career politician/” Given the record on her “documented” performance at HP versus her campaign rhetoric, it appears unlikely.

Read 2475 times Last modified on Friday, 25 September 2015 09:36

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