"The company is a disaster and continues to be a disaster," Donald Trump responded later in the night. "They still haven't recovered. In fact, today, on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, they fired another 25 or 30,000 people saying we still haven't recovered from the catastrophe."
Trump is among a chorus of increasingly vocal Fiorina critics. Before her team could grab the space, a cybersquatter purchased CarlyFiorina.org, flooding the page with a frowning face for each lay-off they counted under her leadership. (The Fiorina campaign’s digital home is CarlyforPresident.com)
Here are key points about her corporate reign:
1) Fiorina says Hewlett-Packard flourished under her guidance. The facts are more complicated.
In May, she told Fox News, “We took a company and doubled it in size to almost $90 billion… And yes, indeed, we grew jobs, because we transformed a company that was falling behind and failing to one that was growing and succeeding.”
The Post’s Fact Checker investigated these claims, ruling them misleading:
“According to the company’s annual 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, net revenue was $42.37 billion in 1999 and $86.7 billion in 2005. That’s certainly double, but the key factor for the jump in revenue was Fiorina’s decision in 2001 to merge HP with a rival company, Compaq. In that year, Compaq had revenue of $33 billion and HP had revenue of $45 billion, or a combined total of $78 billion.”
2) A crucial difference between the careers of Fiorina and Trump is that her high-profile corporate past is documented in public record.
"In the business I was in, we had to report our results publicly, as you well know, in excruciating detail, quarter after quarter after quarter," Fiorina recently told a CNBC reporter. "And if I misrepresented those results or those projections, I could be held criminally liable. If I had done it, I could have gone to jail. Those are his standards. I think my standards are what the American people would appreciate politicians or people running for office being held to."
3) Fiorina started as a secretary at a nine-person real estate firm.
“One day, two men who worked there approached my desk and said: ‘We’ve been watching you and we think you can do more than type and file,” Fiorina said in June at a speech in Washington, D.C. “They saw potential and possibilities in me and so I came to see these things in myself.”
In 1980, Fiorina joined AT&T as a management trainee. By 1995, she ran the company’s North American operations. She next leapt to Lucent Technologies, an AT&T spinoff, to work on the firm’s 1996 initial public offering, which raised $3 billion. In 1998, Fortune crowned her “the most powerful woman in American business.” The next year, she was named chief executive at Hewlett-Packard.
4) She broke tradition at Hewlett-Packard.
Fiorina was an outsider, the firm’s only chief executive to never to climb an internal rung, and the first woman to hold the title.
Unlike her predecessors, past employees say, she avoided the company cafeteria. She employed bodyguards. She changed the company magazine’s name from Measure to Invent. She implemented tougher performance metrics, asserting she wasn’t impressed by tenure.
She attracted plenty of admiration and criticism. More on that here.
5) Fiorina oversaw a merger that was unpopular with H-P employees. It ultimately defined her time at the company.
Fiorina fought the board and (the co-founder’s family) to close the deal with Compaq Computer in 2002. Critics argue the marriage diluted Hewlett-Packard’s star printing business at an unjustifiable cost to shareholders. Another expense was human. Under her leadership, roughly 30,000 workers lost their jobs.
“We overlapped,” said Susan Burnett, the company’s former vice president of workforce development. “We had two of everybody. The question was: What are we going to do? If we could get all the A-players from Compaq and keep all the A-players at HP, that meant we had to say goodbye to some of your solid, heavy-lifting people.”
Fiorina said the merger was necessary to stay competitive in Silicon Valley.
"This is a decisive move that accelerates our strategy and positions us to win by offering even greater value to our customers and partners," Fiorina said at the time in a company statement. "At a particularly challenging time for the IT industry, this combination vaults us into a leadership role with customers and partners -- together we will shape the industry for years to come."
Recommended reading: Carol Loomis’s searing 2005 analysis in Fortune.
6) She was fired in 2005, later calling the ouster a “boardroom brawl.”
A subsequent investigation into how the information was leaked bloomed into a spying scandal that involved the authorities and tarnished H-P's wholesome reputation.
Fortune describes the aftermath:
“Several leading publications titled her one of the worst technology CEOs of all time. In fact, the stock popped 10% on the news of her firing and closed the day up 7%. Arianna Packard, the granddaughter of HP’s founder, commented when discouraging voters from supporting Fiorina in her 2010 senatorial run, ‘I know a little bit about Carly Fiorina, having watched her almost destroy the company my grandfather founded.’”
This story has been updated.