Bankrupt candidate

I am not a genius. I possess few marketable skills and little management experience. I don’t speak a bunch of languages or pile awards on my desk. But I’m smarter than Carly Fiorina, and that really bothers me.

I’ve known for some time, for example, that states — unlike cities or counties — cannot declare bankruptcy. Fiorina apparently just learned this, because yesterday the Republican who wants to toss Democrat Barbara Boxer out of the U.S. Senate said California should do exactly that:

“I think it should always be considered. Whether that is the right approach now, I don’t know. I think bankruptcy, as a possibility, at the very least focuses the mind on what has to be done to salvage a situation.”

Sigh. Fiorina’s spokeswoman then made matters worse, shoveling the following condescending dreck onto a Los Angeles Times reporter:

“Carly knows that legally declaring bankruptcy isn’t an option for the state of California like it is for local governments. Her point is that the concept of the state not being able to pay its bills and meet its obligations — and the fact that people are using the word ‘bankrupt’ to describe California’s financial situation — should focus the mind on just how bad the state’s financial situation really is.”

Seriously, this frightens me. I’m not qualified to be a U.S. Senator, and yet I would never make this error. Doesn’t that scare people?

-Anthony Pignataro

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  1. John Seiler
    John Seiler 10 February, 2010, 09:34


    You’re more qualified than Fiorina, who nearly bankrupted HP. Maybe that’s why she was thinking about bankruptcy.

    5 years ago, Rich Karlgaard of Forbes wrote “Carly Fiorina’s Seven Deadly Sins” about how she mismanaged HP; I especially like the last one about the Gulfstream Jet:

    “1. Acting like a rock star. . . In the U.S., only entrepreneurs get to act as rock stars. Hired guns do not. . . We love our entrepreneur rock stars so much we let their sins slide. Carly was excoriated for a boneheaded move — giving Compaq shareholders 37% of HP’s profitable printer division in a swap for Compaq’s flagging PC business. Founder-CEOs are allowed to get away with far worse. . . Jobs’s first bold act after reassuming Apple’s reins in 1996 was to buy NeXT Software at an inflated $400 million and kill the company. Because he owned NeXT, Apple’s purchase made him rich. Yet Apple shareholders forgave Jobs because, well, he’s a rock star. And he has made good on that faith. [Note: Since Karlgaard wrote that, Apple’s stock has quadrupled in value.]

    “2. Failing to see the cheap revolution. . . . Dell is on the right side of the cheap revolution divide. It sells powerful servers for under $5,000 and keeps overhead low in Round Rock, Texas, where the average three-bedroom house sells for $200,000. HP sells servers for tens of thousands and keeps high overhead in Palo Alto, Calif., where the average three-bedroom sells for $1,500,000.

    “3. Failing to see the consumer revolution. A huge shift has occurred in the last five years. The coolest tech products now go straight into the consumer market. . . Carly has ineffectively maneuvered HP into this consumer field.

    “4. Obsession with size over flexibility. . . we need to go deeper and challenge the very premise of these mergers: that large scale is a requirement of success in the global economy. By merging with Compaq, Carly clearly believed this. But maybe the opposite is true — that speed and flexibility now trump scale.

    “5. Letting talent go. . . Aside from chasing away shareholder capital, she chased away talent, from Michael Capellas on down. For high-IQ tech companies, talent loss may be the greater sin. The most dynamic — Microsoft and Oracle during the ’80s and ’90s, and Google now — have always been obsessed with recruiting and keeping talent.

    “6. Not tolerating strength in others. . . the good [CEO’s] tolerate strength in others; the bad ones don’t. Gates has Steve Ballmer. Michael Dell has Kevin Rollins. Larry Ellison has Jeff Henley. Carly had no one like that.

    “7. Lack of focus. We conclude with Peter Drucker’s other great insight: Effective CEOs pick two tasks and devote their energies there. When those tasks are done, they don’t go to #3. They make a new list. One overlooked trick to maintaining focus, Drucker told me, is to cut travel. ‘Make your reports come to see you. Use technology, it’s cheaper than traveling. I don’t know anybody who can work while traveling. Do you?’ Carly, globe-hopping in her Gulfstream, worked 100-hour weeks. But she was focused on too many tasks. Which is no focus at all.”

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