The biggest winner of the Thursday night’s debates was Carly Fiorina, who was on the under-card with the goofy kids.
With polls showing she won by between 73 to 87 percent, the Democrats are preparing to attack her with “long knives” for destroying Hewlett-Packard’s “culture.” But Carly Fiorina’s ability to turn around H-P and strength to survive breast cancer, will make it tough for Democrats to successfully trash her.
Carly Fiorina came to Hewlett-Packard after quickly rising through the executive ranks at AT&T, and then becoming a corporate star in the 1996 planning and implementation of the “Telephone divestiture” and the successful IPO of Lucent Technologies.
Having worked as a “Kelly Girl” secretary while attending Stanford University, when she joined Hewlett-Packard as CEO in 1999, she was the first woman to head a Fortune 20 company and probably the most powerful female executive on the planet.
Fiorina immediately focused on remaking HP focus from one-of-a-kind products and tools for engineers, to be able to directly take on IBM as an end-to-end, computing-and-services business. To change the culture, she first spun-off Hewlett-Packard’s test and measurement components division founded in 1938 in an initial public stock offering on Nov. 18, 1999. The IPO raised $2.1 billion and broke records as the largest new issue in Silicon Valley history. The deal drove HP stock from $26 to $66 a share.
Three months later she bid to buy PwC Consulting for about $18 billion, but later dropped the bid in the midst of the Dot-com bubble crash. H-P stock price fell about $15 a share in 2002. Agilent’s stock fell from $150 to $10 a share during the same period.
In January 2002, Fiorina bid $19 billion in an all Hewlett-Packard share bid to buy Compaq Computers. The acquisition caused a bruising-but-unsuccessful proxy battle with Walter Hewlett, a board member and son of company co-founder Walter Hewlett. He and a number of big shareholders vehemently opposed the deal as diluting the company’s core profitable printer business. But the real opposition was that it would destroy the company’s established culture.
After the close of the merger, liberals and the press went crazy when the combined companies’ synergy savings led to 30,000 layoffs.
Despite H-P’s stock rising to $29 a share by 2005, the Fiorina was ousted as CEO. The Board insisted at the time that it was not her corporate results, but because of her aggressive “management style” that caused too much friction. Upon her exit, H-P gave Fiorina what was widely considered a “golden parachute” worth about $40 million.
Over the next 3 years, Wall Street realized that Fiorina’s strategy was working and the price of Hewlett-Packard’s stock continued to rise to over $50 a share.
Fiorina went on to work for John McCain in his 2008 Presidential bid and then ran as political unknown in the 2010 Republican primary. During the run-up to the campaign, Fiorina was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy in 2009. During the 2010 California Republican primary, women came up to her to say they too were cancer survivors. Fiorina responded, “It’s a sisterhood.” She won the primary and ran a credible Senate campaign, but lost to Boxer by 10 points in the heavily Democrat state.
After Fiorina announced her Presidential candidacy and started to get traction for her competence in addressing the issues, NBC Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked Fiorina on the show in May. When Todd aggressively attack her as a slash and burn executive that was fired for the way she treated people. Fiorina calmly responded:
“What people fail to comment on is the fact we doubled the size of the company, took the growth rate from 2 percent to 9 percent,” she said. “We tripled the rate of innovation to 11 patents a day and went from lagging behind to leading in every product category. We grew jobs here in the U.S. and all over the world. You can’t just leave those facts out — they are as vital to the record as the fact that yes, indeed, I had to make tough calls during tough times. Tough times that many technology companies didn’t survive at all.” The artful answer left Todd almost speechless.
Carly Fiorina’s most effective line in the Thursday’s Republican debate was describing Hillary Clinton as, “Not trustworthy. No Accomplishments.” If a man made that statement, the Democrats’ political correctness machine would have screamed “sexist”. But as an accomplished women that has also survived breast cancer, trying to trash Carly Fiorina with political correctness may prove extremely difficult.