Saturday, September 09, 2006

HP's Flap

The news about the problems in the HP board room has been interesting. When Carly Fiorinna was in the process of leaving/being fired the board was divided. One board member, which the news media has identified as George A. Keyworth II, evidently yapped to the media. On most corporate boards, for very good reasons, there is a confidentiality policy - not unlike the Las Vegas advertisements - what goes on here, stays here. That allows candid and strategic conversations.

Keyworth seems to have worked, at least to some degree, with long time Silicon Valley VC person, Thomas Perkins, who was invited on the board (after retiring) and then resigned. The board leaks came at about the time that Fiorinna was dismissed but persisted after that.

The interesting part of the story is the way the board chair, Patricia Dunn, handled the issues of dissent. Dunn seems to have used an outside firm to investigate phone records of individual board members. The investigators posed as board members to obtain the phone records. At least according to one news source, in contravention of California law. For example the NYT quotes the California AG who said “A crime was committed.” But he added: “It is unclear how strong the case is. Who is charged and for what is still an open question.”

HP went through some tough times. Part of it was self inflicted. In the last 18 months the company has recovered its focus. One wonders how much further it could have been had it not done the Compaq merget and had it acquired the consulting business that was offered to it for a song.

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