Fiorinas Lasting Legacy: A Post-Compaq Culture

Hewlett-Packard's departing CEO succeeded in overseeing a massive merger and toppling a "country club" culture, but she sometimes faltered when it came to executing her ambitious plans, observers say.

If Carly Fiorina is to be remembered for anything at Hewlett-Packard, now that she has resigned effective immediately from her post as chairwoman and CEO, it is for some fundamental changes she brought to the company.

The most obvious was the acquisition of Compaq Computer in May 2002. It was one of the biggest acquisitions in the history of the industry, and it developed great controversy that was helped along by a nasty fight among members of the board of directors.

But despite the ill will generated by the Compaq merger, the integration of the company has moved ahead to the point that most observers dont think the company could be taken apart again, even if the board wanted to do so.

/zimages/6/28571.gifRead more here about Fiorinas abrupt departure from Hewlett-Packard.

"Carly Fiorina was the driving force of the Compaq acquisitions," said Laura Koetzle, vice president and research director at Forrester Research Inc.

"Our opinion was that it was the right thing to do," she said. While saying she thinks the overall direction at Hewlett-Packard Co. since Fiorina came onboard has been more right than wrong, Koetzle added that it still hasnt been a smooth transition. "The protracted battle was unfortunate. It made the merger more painful than it should have been," she said.

But that merger has since proven to have been the right decision, according to analysts and others interviewed for this story. "Their strategy has been directionally correct then and since. By no means should one view the departure of Fiorina as the wheels coming off the bus," Koetzle said.

The basically solid performance of the company during Fiorinas tenure in office bears out that opinion. "The return to shareholders has been very good," said Ben Rosen, retired chairman of Compaq.

Rosen left the helm of the Texas manufacturer two years before the merger, but he has been observing the company since. Rosen is the legendary venture capitalist who was responsible for starting some of the industrys most famous companies, from Compaq to VisiCalc.

"I think the high point was in her execution of the Compaq acquisition," Rosen said, adding that the merger was a benefit for both companies.

Next Page: Changing the "HP Way."

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...