Failing Upward: Today, HP announced the ouster of Carly Fiorina as CEO, a position she held for the past six years. Predictably, HP's stock adjusted upward with the news.
The last six years of Ms. Fiorina's career reveals an interesting case study in how to succeed without ummm, succeeding.
Ms. Fiorina worked for a long time at AT&T, and then jumped to its Network Systems group in 1996; a move considered high-risk, no-reward by the entrenched long distance people. The Network Systems division was spun off into this little company called Lucent Technologies. She quickly became the head of its North American operations and in 1999, an even tinier company called Hewlett Packard came knocking; seeking to re-engineer itself in light of the tech mania the world was experiencing at the end of the 20th Century.
Back in 1999, Lucent was the end-all, be-all of the tech world. Its stock was through the roof, it had cool commercials, and everyone wanted a piece.
Fiorina was considered a hard-charger and an effective leader; Lucent's stock position was proof positive. It was therefore a natural decision to pick her to run one of the largest and most pedigreed tech companies as it turned the corner into the 21st century. Right?
So, she jumps ship to HP, re-orders the corporate culture, stages a near-coup in challenging the founders' offspring in buying Compaq (arguing the move brought instant heft in the pc market), and positions the company to be a player in the consumer products world. The results? She oversees a 55% stock price decline since her annointment.
HP announced just last month that it was combining its lucrative printer business with the rest of its PC group, to buttress overall profitability. This is what Fiorina said she was going to do when she started.
Oh and by the way, Lucent is trading at under $4/share today, and hasn't been above $10 since 2000. Its wildly-inflated stock price back in '99 of course being no more indicative of its worth than any other tech stock back then.
Timing, is as they say, everything. Importantly, I've presided over a 2,000% increase in the value of FauxPolitik since inception. I'm available for interviews.