The Competent Carly Fiorina: Meet the woman who shut up Chris Mathews

I liked Carly Fiorina before the Fox News debates, but often thought she was too soft and repetitive on her position against Hillary Clinton. She did predictably well in the debates, which I was impressed with. She’s definitely a woman I could get behind for president. I like her a lot. But I wasn’t sure she was aggressive enough to be president until I saw her handle Chris Mathews after the debate, in an interview where he tried to peg her down with specifics. She not only provided specifics, she actually did it so well that Mathews conceded to her as time ran out. It was a very impressive exchange respectfully done, but most importantly, effectively implemented.

Cara CarletonCarlyFiorina (née Sneed; September 6, 1954) is a former business executive, and current Chair of the non-profit philanthropic organization Good360.[2] Starting in 1980, Fiorina rose through the ranks to become an executive at AT&T and its equipment and technology spinoff, Lucent. As chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard (HP) from 1999 to 2005, she was the first woman to lead one of the top twenty U.S. companies.[3]

In 2002, Fiorina undertook the biggest high-tech merger in history, with rival computer company Compaq, which made HP the world’s largest personal computer manufacturer.[4][5] Following HP’s gain in market share as a result of the merger, Fiorina laid off thousands of US employees. However, [6][7] by the end of 2005, the merged company had more employees worldwide than both companies together had before the merger.[8] As of February 9, 2005 HP stock had lost more than half its value, while the overall NASDAQ index had fallen 26 percent owing to turbulence in the tech sector.[9][10][11] On that date, the HP board of directors forced Fiorina to resign as chief executive officer and chairman.[12][13]

After HP, Fiorina served on the boards of several organizations and as an adviser to Republican John McCain‘s 2008 presidential campaign. She won a three-person race for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate from California in 2010, but lost the general election to incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.[14]

In 1980, Fiorina joined AT&T as a management trainee and rose to become a senior vice president overseeing the company’s hardware and systems division.[25]

In 1995, Fiorina led corporate operations for the spinoff from AT&T of Lucent, reporting to Lucent chief executive Henry B. Schacht.[26] She played a key role in planning and implementing the 1996 initial public offering of stock and company launch strategy.[27][28] Later in 1996, Fiorina was appointed president of Lucent’s consumer products business, reporting to Rich McGinn, president and chief operating officer.[28] In 1997, she was appointed chair of Lucent’s consumer communications joint venture with Philips, Philips Consumer Communications.[29] It was dissolved a year later after garnering only a 2% market share in mobile phones and losing $500 million on a revenue of $2.5 billion.[30] Also in 1997, she was named group president for the global service provider business at Lucent, overseeing marketing and sales for the company’s largest customer segment.[31]

During her time at AT&T, Lucent, and afterward, Fiorina was regarded by many as being the first woman to head up a Fortune 20 company, and to have overcome the metaphorical “glass ceiling“.[32][33][34]

Hewlett-Packard (HP)

In July 1999, Hewlett-Packard Company named Fiorina chief executive officer, succeeding Lewis Platt and prevailing over the internal candidate Ann Livermore.[35] Fiorina received a larger signing offer than any of her predecessors, including: $65 million in stock, a $3 million signing bonus, a $1 million annual salary (plus a $1.25–3.75 million annual bonus), $36,000 in mortgage assistance, a relocation allowance, and permission (and encouragement) to use company planes for personal affairs.[36] She became the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company.[3] Fiorina immediately became a highly visible chief executive and remained so throughout her tenure at the company.[37]

Fiorina proceeded to reorganize HP and merge the part she kept with PC maker Compaq.[37] Although the decision to spin off the company’s technical equipment division predated her arrival, one of her first major responsibilities as chief executive was overseeing the separation of the unit into the standalone Agilent Technologies.[38] Fiorina proposed the acquisition of the technology services arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers for almost $14 billion, but withdrew the bid after a lackluster reception from Wall Street.[39] Following the collapse of the dot-com bubble, the PwC consulting arm was acquired by IBM for less than $4 billion.[40] Fiorina instituted three major changes to HP’s culture shortly after her arrival: a shift from nurturing employees to demanding financial performance, replacing profit sharing with bonuses awarded if the company met financial expectations, and a reduction in operating units from 83 to 4.[36]

In early September 2001, in the wake of the bursting of the Tech Bubble, Fiorina announced the merger with Compaq, a leading competitor in the industry. Fiorina fought for the merger, and it was implemented despite strong opposition from board member Walter Hewlett (the son of company co-founder William Hewlett) and 49% opposition among HP’s shareholders.[41][42] Hewlett launched a proxy fight against Fiorina’s efforts, which failed.[43] The Compaq merger[44] created the world’s largest personal computer manufacturer by units shipped.[45][46]

Fiorina presented herself as a realist regarding the effects of globalization. She was a strong proponent, along with other technology executives, of the expansion of the H-1B visa program.[47][48][49][50] Fiorina responded against protectionism in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, writing that while “America is the most innovative country,” it would not remain so if the country were to “run away from the reality of the global economy.”[51] Fiorina said to Congress in 2004: “There is no job that is America’s God-given right anymore. We have to compete for jobs as a nation.”[48] While Fiorina argued that the only way to “protect U.S. high-tech jobs over the long haul was to become more competitive [in the United States],” her comments prompted “strong reactions” from some technology workers who argued that lower wages outside the United States encouraged the offshoring of American jobs.[52] In the US, 30,000 HP employees were laid off during Fiorina’s tenure.[6][53] In 2004, HP fell dramatically short of its predicted third-quarter earnings, and Fiorina fired three executives during a 5 AM telephone call.[36]

Fiorina frequently clashed with HP’s board of directors,[36][42] and she faced backlash among HP employees and the tech community for her leading role in the demise of HP’s egalitarian “The HP Way” work culture and guiding philosophy,[36][42][54] which she felt hindered innovation.[36][55] Because of changes to HP’s culture, and requests for voluntary pay cuts to prevent layoffs (subsequently followed by the largest layoffs in HP’s history), employee satisfaction surveys at HP—previously among the highest in America—revealed “widespread unhappiness” and distrust,[36][56] and Fiorina was sometimes booed at company meetings and attacked on HP’s electronic bulletin board.[36]

During Fiorina’s time as CEO, HP’s revenue doubled due to mergers with Compaq and other companies,[57][58] and the rate of patent filings increased.[58] According to reports, however, the company underperformed by a number of metrics: there were no gains in HP’s net income despite a 70% gain in net income of the S&P 500 over this period;[57] the company’s debt rose from ~4.25 billion USD to ~6.75 billion USD;[57] and stock price fell by 50%, exceeding declines in the S&P 500 Information Technology Sector index and the NASDAQ.[57][59] In contrast, stock prices for IBM and Dell fell 27.5% and 3% respectively, during this time period.[59]

Resignation from Hewlett-Packard

In early January 2005, the Hewlett-Packard board of directors discussed with Fiorina a list of issues that the board had regarding the company’s performance.[60] The board proposed a plan to shift her authority to HP division heads, which Fiorina resisted.[61] A week after the meeting, the confidential plan was leaked to the Wall Street Journal.[62] Less than a month later, the board brought back Tom Perkins and forced Fiorina to resign as chair and chief executive officer of the company.[63] The company’s stock jumped on news of her departure, adding almost three billion dollars to the value of HP in a single day.[64][65] Many employees celebrated her resignation.[36] Under the company’s agreement with Fiorina, which was characterized as a golden parachute by TIME magazine,[66] and Yahoo!,[67] it was reported she had been paid slightly more than $20 million in severance.[68]

I noticed that Donald Trump did not go after her in the way he might otherwise—before the whole Megan Kelly thing erupted. I’d guess that is because he is looking at her as a running mate, which would be the best of both worlds. Trump understands the showbiz side of politics, which shouldn’t be the case, but is a brutal reality of any campaign. The left doesn’t play by the rules, and Republicans continue to lose because they don’t understand the theatrics well enough about how the left beats them. Trump is destroying that political model as we speak—which I am very happy about. Carly is a more traditional manager, and ultimately is more of what we’d all like to expect out of a President in the White House. But I really think she, and all the other candidates as well, need Donald Trump to reset the political field on both sides with his bombastic behavior. The political process needs Donald Trump, but I am very happy to see candidates in the field like Carly Fiorina emerging so strongly. She is a wonderful breath of fresh air.

Rich Hoffman


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