Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman: could GOP do worse? #tcot

So Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman won their respective GOP primaries last night. I don't intend this post to be a political grandstand, but I have to ask: what on earth are California Republicans thinking?   Carly Fiorina quit Lucent Technologies at what can only be described as a 'fortuitous' time -- right before the beginning-of-the-end of its greatness and its descent into missed quarters and dodgy accounting. As the new HP CEO, she certainly cut a contrasting figure to the outgoing Lew Platt. [Full disclosure: I was an HP employee during her first three years at the company.] Right from the beginning, HP employees knew something wasn't right. Fiorina came across as all style and no substance. There was an argument that HP could have used some style, but the loss of Platt's substance was immediately apparent -- not to mention of extreme concern to employees. By common consent, her style was firmly at odds with the company culture. There was a striking contrast between The Carly Way and the HP Way (as Bill H. and Dave P. came to describe the culture).

Quantitatively, Fiorina was a near-disaster for the company. During the six years of her tenure, she destroyed shareholder value, as a chart of HP's stock price vs. the three major U.S. indexes clearly illustrates:

HPQ stock price

As for Meg Whitman, I'm glad to say that I've never worked for eBay. However, there was a time when I was a frequent user of eBay and its payment arm, PayPal. The eBay and PayPal services together managed to pull off the stellar feat of alienating both its sellers and buyers on several occasions. Its ludicrous and inscrutable policies turned a once-great service into an object of derision and anger. These policies were inconsistently applied by minimum-wage, offshore support staff who failed to read email sent to them, and didn't even manage to do a good job of sticking to the scripts they'd been given. My experience as a customer of eBay/PayPal and the experiences of countless others seem to point to a distinct failure of management. And then there's eBay's disastrous Skype acquisition. At the time, nobody at the company was able to articulate why the purchase was a good idea. There was much bland, unconvincing talk of allowing buyers and sellers to communicate better. To the surprise of few observers, it proved to be a crazy idea that cost eBay a billion and stunted the growth of Skype's core business.  

Can you think of two recent tech CEOs who have a worse track record in business than these two? I can't. Yet, predictably, their messages to primary voters drip heavy with talk of business acumen and financial success. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

Am I right, or am I full of it? Leave a comment below (accusations of sexism will be laughed at, the accusers will be mocked)...

Richi Jennings, blogger at large
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: TLV@richij.com.

You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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