Former Intel CEO Craig Barrett says ex-HP CEO Carly Fiorina, now running for the U.S. Senate, is being unfairly criticized for her time at the helm of the computer giant. In particular, Barrett says Fiorina's controversial decision to merge Compaq with Hewlett-Packard laid the foundation for the success HP is having today.
from former Intel chairman and CEO Craig
In an op-ed
in the San Jose Mercury News April 4, Barrett defended Fiorina's
tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard,
particularly her controversial decision to buy Compaq Computer for $25 billion
The move faced a lot of skepticism from inside and outside the
company, and drew the ire of some of the HP heirs. It has come back into play
now that Fiorina has kicked off her campaign to unseat incumbent Sen. Barbara
With no real political experience to speak of, much of
Fiorina's focus-and that of her rivals-has centered on her six-year tenure as
HP's CEO, which ended in 2005 after a
dispute with the company's board of directors regarding direction and strategy.
Most recently, Fiorina has come under
fire from HP heir Arianna Packard,
who took some hard shots at Fiorina in a
letter to several senators who backed her candidacy.
"I know a little about Carly Fiorina, having watched her
almost destroy the company my grandfather founded," Packard said in the
letter sent to conservative Website Redstate.com.
"You write that she is a 'proven business leader.' This may be how she
spins her career, but most business commentators consider Fiorina's tenure at
HP to be a disaster."
newspapers noted that HP's PAC (political action committee) donated $10,000 to
In his column, Barrett said Fiorina showed foresight and
leadership during her time at HP, particularly during the recession following
the dot-com bust. Many CEOs ran and hid, he said. Fiorina looked at the
landscape, saw that the computer industry needed to be consolidated and merged
with Compaq in the largest deal in the high-tech industry.
"The merger of HP and Compaq was an unqualified success.
It helped transform HP into the largest computer manufacturer in the world and
provided a strong foundation for HP's current success under its very capable
management team," Barrett wrote. "Carly Fiorina, the architect of the
HP-Compaq merger and now a candidate for U.S. Senate, deserves great credit for
her actions while CEO of HP. She understood
the challenges of the marketplace, the dangers of the status quo and the need
for companies to move forward with bold actions to ensure their success."
He credited the work of current HP President and CEO
Mark Hurd and his management team, but said they are being helped by the
foundation that Fiorina put into place.
"Throughout the merger, Carly had her detractors,"
Barrett wrote. "Some of them persist even today. It has been said that she
abandoned the original vision of HP founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard and
that she ignored their core values like 'meaningful innovation,' 'speed and
agility,' and 'a passion for customers.'
"From my perspective, these critiques just do not match
the facts. HP has always been and still is an innovative company bringing great
products into the market. HP has always been customer-focused. What did change
was a dramatic move to ensure HP's future in a world where living in the past
and refusing to move forward was a recipe for mediocrity or worse."
Fiorina is being challenged for the GOP nomination by Chuck
DeVore, a Republican state assemblyman to whom Arianna Packard has contributed
money, and Tom Campbell, a former Republican Congressman who in January stepped
from the governor's race to run against Fiorina and DeVore.
In the governor's race, Campbell
was facing another high-tech
CEO in Meg Whitman,
who turned to
politics after retiring from eBay.