Board Leadership Successions at Hewlett-Packard - The 1999-2014 Roller Coaster (A): Carly Fiorina, 1999-2005

Published 27 May 2016
Reference 6075
Topic Strategy
Region North America
Length 22 page(s)

The case presents describes the tumultuous leadership of Carly Fiorina at HP, from her nomination as CEO, then chair, and early attempts at strategic change (a move to buy PwC Consulting) to a major acquisition (Compaq) and ultimately her removal by a board coup. At the time she was fired (and replaced by Mark Hurd from NCR) the share price was rising and results were coming through. During that time, she had a major falling-out with Walter Hewlett, son of the founder and President of the Hewlett Foundation, which owed 10% of HP's stock. She also fell out with Dick Hackborn, the person who had hired her and then offered her the chair position despite doubting - he later admitted - her ability to turn around the company's fortunes.

Teaching objectives

The case charts the leadership path of Carly Fiorina at the helm of HP, first as CEO coming from Lucent, and soon after as CEO and chair. It can serve multiple purposes. One is to discuss the boardroom dynamics during her term and whether she failed more as CEO or as Chair. The case provides an illustration of the Fair Process Leadership framework, with the conclusion that she was not a fair process leader, and underlines the need to manage the board, particularly in turbulent times. It also allows discussion of the particular governance features of US listed companies. A final angle is whether HP was still a family firm, either in spirit or reality (it no longer was in a legal sense) even when ownership had been transferred to the foundation.

  • Governance
  • Leadership
  • CEO Succession
  • Board - Executive Dynamics
  • Strategy
  • M&A
  • Q31516
  • Succession, next generation
  • Education, entrepreneurship, leadership
  • Governance, parallel planning, strategy, boards