The HP Saga: Carly Goes on Tour; Dunn v. Everybody?

25 Sep ’06

There is little new about the HP saga today; the papers are obviously continuing to dig but recent focus is on analysis pieces about the tough road CEO Mark Hurd has ahead of him and how much harder it may be for HP to substantiate its story and protect Hurd with ex-chair Patricia Dunn now on the outside.

The NYT provides a personal profile on Hurd, portraying him as a detail-oriented executive who inexplicable failed to pay attention at the worst possible time. Inattention that he’s specifically avoided explaining, presumably in the belief that anything he adds to what has already been said could only make matters worse. Not much new here, and the NYT is obviously treading water on the story, waiting for new developments.

Perhaps more interesting is a sidebar piece on former CEO Carly Fiorina’s memoirs, due on the street October 9:

The very first sentence of “Tough Choices,” Ms. Fiorina’s soon-to-be-published book about her days as Hewlett-Packard’s chief executive, is expected to be a slam against that company’s board of directors, several of whom are now at the center of a spying scandal at the company, including some who have left the board.

The timing could hardly be better for the sales prospects of Ms. Fiorina’s book, which BusinessWeek Online reports “dishes dirt on the dysfunctional board that ousted her in February 2005.”

With her upcoming book, though, she is now in hot demand on the talk-show circuit, with appearances scheduled for next month on “60 Minutes,” and “The Charlie Rose Show.”

Business Week notes that Perkins and Keyworth get special mention in the book:

Some HP insiders fear the book will fan the flames of scandal. They should worry, says our source. Coming in for criticism in Tough Choices are former HP directors Tom Perkins and George A. “Jay” Keyworth, central characters in the leak controversy, as well as former Compaq Computer chief Michael D. Capellas, says this reader. The source, who is outside HP and admittedly not a Fiorina fan, asked not to be named.

and also reports on the scope of the book tour:

Fiorina’s book publicity campaign, like her personality, will be larger than life. She will be featured on 60 Minutes the evening before the official publication date of Oct. 9. She’ll later chat it up on Good Morning America and The Charlie Rose Show, then embark on a major city publicity tour. Newsweek will publish an exclusive excerpt, and daily newspapers that agreed not to publish ahead of time will run stories on Oct. 10.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the boardroom.

WaPo is also content lite, with a piece on the generalities of Hurd’s involvement, but it does at least manage to squeeze some irony out the story:

The House has passed a measure that would criminalize the stealing and selling of phone records. The bill awaits a Senate floor vote.

HP is on record as a supporter of such measures. On Tuesday, HP wrote to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), urging him to bring the legislation to a vote.

“HP has long been an industry leader on privacy, pushing for comprehensive preemptive federal privacy legislation,” wrote Gary Fazzino, HP vice president of government affairs. “HP believes responsible companies have an obligation to advance consumer and employee rights to have personal information safeguarded.”

At HP, we’re all about privacy. Ours. Perhaps it’s just me, but isn’t gaming the legislative process to dress itself up [Ed: lipstick on a pig, anyone?] before its appearance before the House Energy and Commerce investigative subcommittee at least a little cynical?

Finally, the WSJ digs a little deeper, looking at the inconsistencies and outright disagreements between the stories that the company and Dunn are telling. Now that Dunn has been cut loose, the piece goes, it may be harder for HP to control the story; someone with inside knowledge will be on the outside, willing and able to fuel controversy over key points concerning fault and responsibility. It’s worth noting that Dunn has so far taken aim mainly at the HP board, insisting that as it proceeded she kept the board apprised of the investigation (that she says she wasn’t supervising); so far, she hasn’t taken aim at Hurd. If that changes, the story could get very much worse for HP and for Hurd.

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