Jeffrey Sonnenfeld got name-checked during the last GOP presidential debate, when Donald Trump noted that the Yale professor has called Carly Fiorina's time at Hewlett-Packard "one of the worst tenures for a CEO that he has ever seen." And Trump was right, Sonnenfeld writes in a Politico column headlined, "Why I Still Think Fiorina Was a Terrible CEO." Sonnenfeld uses terms including "disastrous" and "colossal failure" to describe Fiorina's time at HP, calling her "one of the worst technology CEOs in history." Why? During her five-year tenure, which overlapped with the dotcom bubble collapse, HP lost 55% of its value. Not only is that much more than other tech companies lost during that time period, but others (Apple, Dell) actually saw their stock prices rise—and Sonnenfeld believes Fiorina's "failed leadership" is to blame.
"At a time that devices had become a low margin commodity business, Fiorina bought for $25 billion the dying Compaq computer company, which was composed of other failed businesses," despite resistance from "most industry analysts, HP shareholders, HP employees, and even some HP board members." After she was fired, the company "shuttered or sold virtually all Fiorina had bought." Now, she says she doubled revenues, which Sonnenfeld waves off as an "empty measurement" seeing as how profit actually fell. She says she doubled employment, without mentioning that all she did was combine HP and Compaq then lay off 30,000 people. None of this means she shouldn't be given a second chance, Sonnenfeld writes, but in order to deserve one, she must first admit to and learn from her mistakes—but he believes all she's done so far is manipulate the facts and go on the defensive. Click for Sonnenfeld's full column.