The much awaited 60 Minutes show aired Sunday, with two separate segments on former HP (nonexecutive) chairman Patricia Dunn and former CEO Carly Fiorina. Both had been pushed out of the company in different ways--Fiorina for apparently failing to pull the company and its stock out of the mud despite an expensive, divisive battle over the Compaq merger; Dunn for her role spearheading a board investigation that spun out of control, and now has her under indictment under state charges. Both came out swinging at their board opponents.
From a media perspective, the two came across with different styles. Carly, whose book hits the shelves this week, said she was "hurt" when the board expectantly fired her. She declared that her strategy was on target, and rejected claims that she came up short in any areas, including day to day operations (oh, missing the earning projections by 20 plus percent was bad but hardly a fatal sin...even though it lost her credibility on Wall Street). The divisive battle with the HP founders' family, the flashy Carly commercials in front of the legendary founders' garage, the battles with the board--none were Carly's fault.Carly on 60 Minutes
Carly's demeanor on camera, unfortunately, worked against her..
The smile was a little too quick, the answers too rehearsed. She was constantly in defense mode and/or attack mode.
She would have been better to have taken the high road, made her case for why she did what she did and given credit where credit was due (vs trying to take it all). HP is now on a roll financially, and it would be fair to take SOME credit for awakening a sleeping giant. Also--bonus tip for Carly--go ahead and admit some faults and failures. It makes you look more human and credible.
For her part, Patricia made her case for taking such a hard line on the board leaks. Dunn on 60 Minutes Seems
this was the board that couldn't shoot straight, with at least one
member constantly leaking information to the press, damaging any chance
of trust inside the board room. She claimed to have relied on senior HP
legal counsel to guide her (other accounts say warnings were given by
lower level HP managers), and had strong board support.
In any case she wound up in a nasty board battle with VC legend and
board member Tom Perkins, who took the whole mess public and even
turned her into the SEC, FTC, California attorney general's office. See a blow
by blow account in today's Wall Street Journal. (Perkins was unavailable for comment, apparently sailing the high seas on his 289 foot sailing boat, the Maltese Fountain). (Silicon Valley Watch)
She took some swings at him and was equally adamant in her defense as Carly. She's no choir girl, either. But from a visual standpoint, she came across as steadier, calmer, more confident. She never flinched or showed other Carly-like nervous behaviors that the camera always exaggerates. It doesn't help that she's fighting ovarian cancer--or maybe it does, at least on one level. When your life is on the line, even legal indictments, petty billionaires, and public thrashings take a back seat.