What do you do after you've been forced out as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard? It's not as if there is a club for booted chief executives.
Or is there?
Carly Fiorina, who was fired as head of Hewlett-Packard Co. in February, announced yesterday that she would join the board of Revolution Health, an investment vehicle that America Online Inc. founder Steve Case launched in April.
Revolution Health, which seeks to invest in companies that offer customers more choice in health care services, boasts several recent exiles from the executive suite as investors and board members, along with those bearing less tumultuous resumes.
Among the former are Stephen F. Wiggins, once chief executive of Oxford Health Plans Inc., who was pushed out in 1998, and Franklin D. Raines, former chairman and chief executive of housing finance company Fannie Mae, who stepped down last December after the Securities and Exchange Commission ordered the company to restate about $10.8 billion in previously reported earnings.
Then, of course, there is Case himself, who in 2003 was pushed out as chairman of what was then called AOL Time Warner.
Who better than Case could understand what former chief executives have to offer, regardless of the circumstances of their departure?
Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management and co-author of a forthcoming book on chief executives and catastrophic career setbacks, said Case's choices of investors and advisers are proof of his business savvy.
Sonnenfeld said former executives offer their new companies more bang for their buck.
"They're a tremendously underutilized resource. . . . Even if their last mission was not successful, they have learned a good deal about what went wrong," he said. Companies willing to take them on "often get great value" out of the Fiorinas of the world.
"They are aware they are under closer scrutiny and held to higher standards," Sonnenfeld said. "They want to prove they're still smart and have heroic value."
Andrew J. Ward, a professor at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business and Sonnenfeld's co-author, said Case's choice of the name Revolution appeals to those used to occupying the corner office.
"Many of them are driven by a heroic self-concept. They want to leave a legacy, to do something fundamentally different," Ward said. "Instead of going back into a large corporation, they want to create something new."
Rather than making it hard on himself by taking on high-profile disappointments, Ward said, Case is generating "positive publicity and interest."
Ward said Case might have opened himself up for negative attention if he had put one of his ousted brethren in charge. Instead, however, Case announced yesterday that he hired John Pleasants, chief executive of Ticketmaster, to be chief executive of Revolution Health.
Pleasants is leaving Ticketmaster voluntarily. No boot applied.
AOL founder Steve Case, pushed out of the executive suite himself, recognizes the value of former CEOs' experience and creativity.