Carly Fiorina's High-Stakes Battle for the Soul of Hewlett-Packard

Peter Burrows

Publisher: Wiley, 2003, 296 pages

ISBN: 978-0-471-26765-2

Keywords: Biography

Last modified: July 8, 2012, 8:58 a.m.

Hewlett-Packard, the venerable computer maker, was seeing hard times for the first time in its six-decade history. In an effort to shake things up, the company brought in an outside CEO — the daring and harismatic Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina brought style and new thinking to HP, but she also brought change. Her efforts at rapid reform frequently collided with the familiar "HP Way," the egalitarian corporate culture and integrity that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard had instilled in the company from its very beginning. Many say her initiatives brought little immediate improvement in the company's fortunes. Then came the single biggest move that would change HP forever: a proposed merger with Compaq. Rubber-stamped by the board, it semed the deal would go through without a hitch. But board member and family scion Walter Hewlett saw HP's merger with Compaq as potentially disastrous.

With the board firmly entrenched behind Fiorina, Hewlett faced a stark choice: accept what he knew to be a strategic error, or fight and potentially expose the company to a divisive, destructive public fray. Hewlett chose to fight and what followed was the biggest, most costly proxy battle in American corporate history.

Backfire tells the inside story of HP's struggle to regain its former glory, and of the high-stakes battle between Fiorina and Hewlett over how best to achieve that goal.

Top BusinessWeek journalist Peter Burrows presents the controversial and gripping business story behind the epic battle in a tale that reads like a great novel of intrigue. Backfire offers the first blow-by-blow account of the corporate struggle that will eventually decide the fate of two computer-making giants. Burrows uncovers how Fiorina's greatest victory might lead to her ultimate downfall.

  • Prologue
  1. The Showdown
  2. The Emergence of Carleton Sneed
  3. Inside the HP Way
  4. Trouble in Paradise
  5. The Making of a Star
  6. Searching for a CEO
  7. An Eventful Honeymoon
  8. Unraveling
  9. Compaq Cometh
  10. The November Surprise
  11. Proxy Fight
  12. The Lawsuit
  • Epilogue



Reviewed by Roland Buresund

Mediocre **** (4 out of 10)

Last modified: July 8, 2012, 8:58 a.m.

A book about one of the most over-rated CEOs of our time, and a testament to the cult of the CEO!

I don't believe that the author goes into the Fiorinas background enough, as we could detect later, she failed in everything except playing power-politics (and she failed in that as well, when she failed in her bid to become a politician). Many Carly-fans complains that the book is anti-Carly, but having lived through the debacle and knowing a lot of people in the companies, I can anly say that the author is giving her a too kind treatment.

In short, you won't miss anything if you don't read this book.


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