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HPE's Whitman: Fiorina's Business Experience Not Enough

The company's CEO says that while it's good for a president to have a corporate background, political experience is important.

HPE Whitman

Ex-Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina isn't going to find much support for her presidential campaign from the person who now occupies that seat.

Fiorina throughout the campaign has been hyping her business experience—particularly her six-plus years steering HP—as her primary asset in her run for president.

However, in an interview with CNN, Meg Whitman, who took over as HP's CEO four years ago, said Fiorina's corporate experience isn't enough. Although it's good for a president to have some business background, political experience is also needed.

"While I think business strengths are important, I also think having worked in government is an important part of the criteria," Whitman said, adding that experience in Congress or as a governor of a state is critical. "It's very difficult for your first role in politics to be president of the United States."

Both Whitman and Fiorina have been involved in politics. In 2010, Whitman lost a bid to become California's governor, while Fiorina failed to oust Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. In addition, both have worked for Republican presidential candidates, such as John McCain and Mitt Romney. In July, Whitman joined on with N.J. Gov. Chris Christie's campaign.

However, that's not enough for someone running for the presidency.

"It's just hard to be dropped down into Washington, D.C., never having been involved in politics before, so I'd want to have someone who had some experience in politics," Whitman said.

Fiorina's tenure with HP was a controversial one, given that during that time the company laid off 30,000 employees, saw its stock price drop sharply and bought rival Compaq for $25 billion in a highly contested deal. The board of directors fired her in 2005.

Fiorina has argued that she had to make difficult decisions to invigorate a company that had grown stale and unable to compete in a changing industry. Whitman has said the same thing about her tenure as CEO. During that time, the company has cut more than 80,000 jobs and has since split into two new companies: Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), which sells enterprise IT solutions and services, and HP Inc., which focuses on PCs and printers.

Whitman is CEO of HPE.