Fiorina and Whitman’s business track record not something to brag about


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Newly minted Republican candidates Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina made their respective fortunes in the Silicon Valley.  But do they deserve to be remembered for their business acumen?

When IT geeks say otherwise, it is time to listen.  Richi Jennings writes for Computerworld.  He is not a political analyst.  But he had a few things to say about these ladies in his latest column.  Here are a few excerpts:

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 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 of 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.

There you go.  And he didn’t even mention the gazillions Whitman blew by expanding Ebay into China, then closing the operation, then starting it again, only to close it again.

These ladies were anything but smart business leaders.  And now they want us to vote for them – after they both tilted hard to the right in the recent Primary Election?  I don’t think so.

I am no fan of Senator Barbara Boxer and gubernatorial candidate (and current State Attorney General) Jerry Brown.  But there is no way I can support either Fiorina or Whitman. 

Will other independent voters follow suit?  It is clear that neither of these candidates can win with the GOP vote alone.  Can they lay claim to the thousands of disaffected independent voters in California?  If these voters do the research, they will find ample reasons not to vote for either of these Republican candidates.

 Tom Campbell might have had a shot against Boxer.  I am not sure that Steve Poizner would have done much better against Brown.  In either case, the GOP is now stuck with Whitman and Fiorina.  Let the spending ensue as they continue to waste millions of dollars in their mutual quest for power…


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