Poor HP. It’s damned if it handles a scandal by trying to take the highroad — as was the case with Mark Hurd’s ouster before things spiraled so out of control — and it’s damned if it handles a scandal by blasting the people it found responsible as in the case with the more recent Autonomy to do.
HP is looking a lot like a Yahoo at the moment. Great assets and all that, blah, blah, blah. Gunning for the turn around, yeah, yeah. Valley is rooting for it for sentimental reasons, etc. But no matter who they get to sit in the CEO chair, sins of the past HP CEOs just don’t allow them to look very good.
Witness the popular backlash against current HP CEO Meg Whitman these days. Throughout Silicon Valley it’s common to hear people say eBay simply made her look good, not the other way around. And certainly she did herself no favors when she once told Fortune the company could be run by monkeys.
There’s a lot of “What have you done for me lately?” when it comes to Wall Street’s griping. What Whitman is going through is reminiscent of what Carol Bartz went through at Yahoo — although nowhere near as extreme. Bartz was lauded as one of the most talented tech CEOs in the Valley while Autodesk’s stock had a phenomenal run in the early-to-mid 2000s. But her reputation was wrecked during a short run as CEO of Yahoo.
When it comes to the press, there’s a lot of that same thing that entrepreneurs face. It’s born of East Coast media’s obsession with always being right: You are a total moron until your company catches on then you’re a total hero and then if it stumbles you are a total moron and should be fired again. (Sound familiar, Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Pincus and Andrew Mason?)
Investor and Quora exec Marc Bodnick thinks it’s all unfair when it comes to Whitman. In a well argued Quora answer, he lays out why Whitman wasn’t overhyped as CEO of eBay, what she actually did at the company and posits the real reasons people love to hate her: Because she’s a woman and a Republican. It’s a fascinating defense of a non-founder tech CEO in a time when they are not popular, and he makes an excellent case, bringing up a lot of details that Whitman haters have conveniently forgotten.
Here’s the answer in its entirety.