Thursday, July 16, 2009

Calif governor contenders

Some are asking -- what's with ex-CEOs running for public office, especially in these hard times? Not everyone recalls when H. Ross Perot ran twice for President, probably drawing enough support in 1992 to swing the election to Clinton. The great thing then, or joke depending on your persuasion, was his strong use of pie charts and graphs -- typecast him immediately as "gasp" an engineer. So now we have, in the broken financial state of California, vying for the chance to become the governor, two Republicans -- Carly Fiorina, ex-CEO of HP, and Meg Whitman, retired CEO of E-Bay.

They had very different exits from their respective CEO roles.

Fiorina, mostly vilified for breaking the vaunted HP Way, and a terrible approach to "the people", not to mention a dumb strategy to buy Compaq after a ludicrous failed attempt to buy PricewaterhouseCoopers for whopping big money. The Board, belatedly said many, gave her the boot unceremoniously; the old guard danced for joy (that is, until the next one brought PRETEXTING into the vocabulary).

Whitman, almost reverently revered for her kindly and mannerly approach, plus her clear success in leading EBay from a virtual standing start to a global powerhouse.

The irony today is that the E-Bay strategy has been described in many circles, by Whitman's chosen replacement and several Board members, not to mention pundits galore, as BROKEN, and the company is trying hard to figure out how to remake itself to "save itself" from disaster.

HP, meanwhile, was able to displace Dell despite all the pundits, and it did so quietly, but with vengeance almost from the hour that Fiorina inked the deal. Granted, it took three years to catch them, and two more to thump them, but she did see the opportunity and seized the momentum when almost everyone decried it. And the PwC deal? Despite the hype about overpricing, IBM wound up paying 92% of Fiorina's offer (in post denominated $$$), and it is today the basis of more than 60% of their total business. Hurd read the tea leaves, one might assert, and bought the nearest competitor with the EDS purchase -- and services for HP are now larger than printing/imaging/ink as a collective group, not to mention those PCs and enterprise servers. Imagine -- HP's seventh incarnation, services, which last quarter became the #1 play of HP.

So, the choice for the Republican nominee will likely pit two or three classic politicos against a friendly non-strategist and a combative leader. Recall that Churchill only got the nod in wartime

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