Monday, Apr. 26, 2004

Carly Fiorina

For businesspeople and investors, she's a household name. That might be because Carly Fiorina turns the wheel at one of the icons of the technology era, Hewlett-Packard. It might be because she's a compelling speaker and an imaginative marketer. It might be because she is one of only eight women leading a Fortune 500 company. But as the person who engineered the $19 billion merger with Compaq—and fought off a shareholder challenge—she was guaranteed star status.

When Fiorina took over HP, it had known decades of success, and still credited its legendary "HP Way" culture for much of it. But its recent performance was pale, and its future unsure. So Fiorina adapted the HP way to her way. Taking "Invent!" as the rallying cry, she invented a new future. The board, which had recruited her, was ready to back her; but a family-led shareholder battle required Fiorina to have the courage to collide with history and high emotions. She emerged stronger, and so far so has the company. Producing $3.5 billion of merger savings after promising $2.5 billion bodes well. Of course, cost savings are one thing, sales another. And who would choose IBM and Dell as their competitors? But Fiorina led on many fronts, modernizing how HP did business, how it was organized and how it looked at the world. Now it's selling printers for $40, using nanotechnology to shrink devices and powering the core of the digital household. HP appears to have invention at its core again—and Carly Fiorina.

Scardino is the CEO of Pearson PLC

From the Archives
Mind Your Own Business, Boys: Hewlett-Packard's Carly Fiorina is starting to turn doubters into believers. But can she boost profits while rivals Dell and IBM attack her flanks?