Magazine

Another Look At Hewlett's Leadership


I don't understand the intensity of much of the Carly Fiorina-bashing ("Can anyone save HP?" Cover Story, Feb. 21). If you lay graphs of the IBM (IBM) and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) stock prices since her arrival on top of each other, they match within 5%. But people don't bash Big Blue. Plus, HP stock had softened into the 20s before Fiorina dreamed of the Compaq merger.

Fiorina is criticized for too much travel, but I recall reading in BusinessWeek that Jeffrey R. Immelt of General Electric Co. (GE) travels 26 days a month! Nobody bashes him for it. And if you've ever been a consumer of Dell Inc., you know its products are clunkier, more expensive, take longer to ship, and cost more than HP/Compaq or IBM products. Yet Dell is heroic. HP also pays a respectable dividend -- Dell's is zero.

HP could have been either a printer company -- a one-trick pony -- or what Fiorina sought: a major tech institution with a full line of products and cutting-edge research and development. Maybe she didn't lead well enough. But the Wall Streeters only want a spin-off-induced share bump, then they'll bail and let the company fade back into the garage.

Richard M. Frome

New York

I have a lot of respect for Carly. I believe she was correct in her attempt to drive HP into the consumer market as one key strategy. HP already had a strong consumer brand of products. Penetrating the home with the convergence of technology to deliver and manage digital content is a winning strategy. Just ask Apple (AAPL) or Dell (DELL) or Sony (SNE) or Microsoft (MSFT). Making HP click on all cylinders is not akin to sending a man to the moon. HP is far from being in a state of disrepair. HP simply needs to define clearly what it wants to be -- and maniacally drive that strategy.

Barry Gross

Worthington, Ohio

As a current Lucent Technologies Inc. (LU) employee and former Lucent consultant, I have observed Fiorina firsthand. It is important to remember that she was trained and mentored by Richard A. McGinn and that his reign here at Lucent was characterized by the same failings that the industry is now asserting brought Carly down. They include: more than 38 data acquisitions with no due diligence, wild and unsubstantiated Wall Street financial projections, insular management with no real room for dissent or disagreement, and most important, strong marketing with absolutely no implementation plan.

Carly left Lucent before McGinn was dismissed. She was wooed by HP and viewed as its savior, who would bring HP into the 21st century. She did what she knew -- and that was what had happened at AT&T (T) and Lucent. Like McGinn, she really did not understand that corporate vision and strategic plans are more than making broad-based statements -- a lot of motivational talk with no consequences for not following through. Sadly, HP, like AT&T, will probably be sold or broken up, another victim of merger mania.

Phyllis M. Freed

Lucent Technologies Inc.

Holmdel, N.J.

The heart and soul of HP is in Agilent Technologies Inc. (A), the spin-off of the instrumentation part of HP. The company called HP is an insult to Mr. Hewlett and Mr. Packard. HP should return the HP name to Agilent and rename itself Compaq. There is no innovation at HP, only the selling of commodity items. I used HP oscilloscopes and other unique electronic instruments for many years, and I fully appreciate the innovation and technical leadership that is no longer present at HP.

Gary Brunner

Miamisburg, Ohio

Going against the conventional wisdom of Wall Street, especially resisting the call to break up HP, was one of Fiorina's strong points. While spin-offs may increase the total value of HP's stock -- benefiting stockholders with only immediate gain as a motive -- for the long term it would probably do more harm than good to the company and its employees. Spinning off divisions so that they stand alone in the marketplace deprives them of a critical mass to withstand the markets' ups and downs and deprives them of the synergy that occurs when similar product lines are marketed together.

Paul D. Franson

Jacksonville, Fla.

As a former Compaq employee during most of the years when Michael A. Capellas was CIO and CEO, I am amazed that anyone can think he is a candidate to run HP. Rather than trying to manage Compaq to profitability and success, he tossed in the towel and sold out the company -- while taking home an exorbitant exit package and leaving thousands of people unemployed. I am sure you will be hard-pressed to find any former Compaq or current HP employees who think of Capellas as a motivator and morale booster, let alone an operations expert. It looks as if he is repeating the same scenario at MCI Inc. (MCIP), and as an HP stockholder I am more than convinced HP does not need Michael Capellas -- unless it wants to conduct a company clearance sale.

Joe Schmidt

Houston

It can come as no surprise that Carly Fiorina has received her brown envelope. I confess that Hewlett and Packard were personal heroes. Moreover, their corporate culture left a legacy of how a major world force is created from humble beginnings. What remains, however, is yet a further object lesson concerning succession strategies.

To my jaundiced eye, all that Ms. Fiorina sought was to complete a major merger-and-acquisition strategy at the expense of, rather than for the core benefit of, stakeholders. Hewlett-Packard Co. was built simply on innovation: It was this very innovation that produced the cash cow Fiorina used to support her vaunting ambitions. The inanity of the HP-Compaq merger, while Compaq Computer Corp. was still suffering from its unwise and costly acquisition of Digital Equipment Corp., further magnified the flaws.

Michael C. Feltham

Shoeburyness, England

Everyone knows Carly Fiorina and associates her with HP. When it comes to HP itself, no one has the faintest idea of what it is nowadays. Carly will be forever known as the CEO who took over Compaq. That's her defining moment -- but doesn't make her invincible when HP doesn't meet the numbers. Hopefully now we can see more Compaq products. HP should allow Compaq to be its sole PC business and should concentrate on what it does best: printers.

David C.S. Chong

Selangor, Malaysia

I have read scores of reviews -- good and bad -- of my books and articles, but never one that so misrepresented my work as Michael J. Mandel's review of The Future for Investors ("Forget the next big thing," Books, Feb. 14).

His summarizing words, "Siegel's own figures don't support his anti-tech message," shocked me. Anti-tech message? The very beginning of the first chapter starts out: "The future for investors is bright. Our world today stands at the brink of the greatest burst of invention, discovery, and economic growth ever known." While technology is the linchpin of economic growth, investors must beware of what I call the "growth trap." In their excitement to embrace the new, investors often overpay for the very firms that lead our economy forward, while ignoring slower-growing firms that give investors higher returns.

Mr. Mandel states that "most people will read the book for its treatment of technology investing." I hope not. The Future for Investors is not about technology investing, it is about the future of the world economy. The book shows investors how to structure their portfolio as the developed world ages and the center of economic activity shifts towards China, India, and other emerging markets.

Unfortunately, Mr. Mandel has fallen victim to the very trap that I warn of in the book. We are both optimistic about technology's role in the world economy, but this does not mean that technology stocks will lead the market upward. Just ask investors in the telecom industry whether their spectacular technological advances helped their investments.

Jeremy J. Siegel

Philadelphia


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