Carly Fiorina is enjoying an upswing in the polls and increased buzz following her strong performance in the GOP minor-league debate. As part of her sudden viability as a contender for the Republican nomination, she is aligning herself with a variety of crackpot conservative positions — from wanting to curb women’s rights to supporting the anti-vaxxer hysteria.
A former executive, as opposed to a career politician, Fiorina has often cited her business experience as an indication that her realm is one of bottom lines and tactile results — not empty promises. And she has touted her résumé, which includes most prominently a six-year term as CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HP), as a testament to her management skill and leadership experience.
Yet the surge in media attention has not all been positive: A number of reports have come out, throwing an unfavorable light on her time as HP’s chief executive, from 1999 to her firing in 2005, during which time several thousand jobs were cut, the company’s profitability plummeted, and the once-powerful computer giant was left in disarray.
One of Fiorina’s signature acts was to pilot the merger between HP and Compaq, in the largest computer company merger at the time. Andrew Ross Sorkin, writing in The New York Times, summarizes the impact of the move:
Hewlett-Packard is still recovering from the ill-conceived merger nearly 15 years later, and recently decided to split the company up. There were some 30,000 layoffs. Its stock price plunged and badly lagged its competition.
Sorkin also reports that Fiorina’s campaign has inflated the revenue figures from her time as chief executive to paint an unrealistic portrait of the company’s success.
The Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey reports that the 30,000 layoffs under Fiorina’s tenure include “roughly 200 layoffs in New Hampshire,” which prompted “the federal government to provide emergency grant funds to the Granite State, which holds the nation’s first primary.”
Her tenure there was criticized by some for poor strategic decisions and causing employee morale to plummet. “Her leadership of HP was a total disaster for the company,” said Michael Beer, a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, who has written a book about the firm.
When Fiorina took the helm, he said, the company “had problems,” but was not in dire straits.[…] The year after Fiorina left HP, employees in the region continued to lose their jobs. Massachusetts used about $800,000 in state funds to help 266 laid-off HP workers in 2006, according to the state Department of Labor.
And Jeffrey Sonnenfeld paints a damning portrait in Fortune of Fiorina’s trail of “carnage,” writing that the short-answer verdict of her time as CEO is: She did “pretty badly.” He elaborates:
In 1999, a dysfunctional HP board committee, filled with its own poisoned politics, hired her with no CEO experience, nor interviews with the full board. Fired in 2005, after six years in office, several leading publications titled her one of the worst technology CEOs of all time. In fact, the stock popped 10 percent on the news of her firing and closed the day up 7 percent.
So as Fiorina casts herself as the tough, effective, business-minded leader America needs right now, Sorkin cautions that she will have “difficulty arguing that her time as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard should be viewed as an asset, and not a liability.”
Photo: Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina responds to a question at a Fox-sponsored forum for lower-polling candidates held before the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder