You can really never say too many bad things about Carly Fiorina. She’s a thoroughgoing mess of a human being who took advantage of education and opportunity only to lay one of the largest goose eggs in American corporate history. People fuck up, but Carly didn’t just fuck up… she ultra superduper MEGA fucked up AND walked away very well paid for her time fucking up the lives of employees and shareholders alike, making her one of the most hated people in tech.
Carly was CEO of HP from around mid 1999 until early 2005. In that time, revenue growth collapsed from 7% to 3% (adjusted for foreign currency transactions). She doubled HPs revenue, basically by buying Compaq (we’ll get to that in a bit)… there was almost NO organic revenue growth. Carly said she created thousands of jobs, but she actually slashed about 30,000. She was such a disaster that the only one who’ll speak up for her is Tom Perkins, himself an absolute disaster of a man who thinks votes should be allocated by wealth. She did lie about all this last night and was justifiably defensive. It’s also worth noting that she’s had a checkered past at other companies, like Lucent which had to merge with Alcatel, largely due to financing gear for customers (something Carly encouraged and promoted), and is now set to become a part of Nokia. Then there was AT&T which performed so badly it was acquired by a former subsidiary (where Carly hadn’t been and so couldn’t fuck it up).
All of this is bad, but what made it one of the Legendary Business Fuckups Of All Time is the same thing that brings us to one of my business maxims, that commodity businesses suck…
Only a moron would double down on a low margin commodity business that any asshole could get in with minimal investment and in which your brand carries NO premium.
In 2001, that moron was Carly Fiorina. While Apple was busy differentiating itself by design (building a brand that would demand a premium in the market), Carly Fiorina decided to go another way… seek revenue and damn the profits. It’s a classic strategy if your desire is to hurt everyone except yourself. Most people, when they do shit this dumb, usually admit after the fact that they were on some sort of bender while this was going on. Carly never did … she owns it and is inexplicably PROUD of her performance at HP. Apple had a 15% of HP’s market cap in 2001 and now is worth around 10 times MORE than HP.
So, when by chance you run into Carly, make sure she knows how much she sucks.