Fiorina's ousting at HP creates press storm, intrigue

PALO ALTO, CA: The ousting of Hewlett-Packard boss Carly Fiorina last week - coming days after scathing back-to-back articles in Fortune and the Wall Street Journal - generated surprise and speculation among those who have followed the contentious reign of the high-profile CEO.

PALO ALTO, CA: The ousting of Hewlett-Packard boss Carly Fiorina last week - coming days after scathing back-to-back articles in Fortune and the Wall Street Journal - generated surprise and speculation among those who have followed the contentious reign of the high-profile CEO.

HP itself received more than 650 media calls the day the news broke, wrote VP of corporate communications Pam Wickham in an e-mail. "We're focused on communicating in a clear and concise manner to our employees, customers, and shareowners," she said.

But the Fortune and Wall Street Journal stories, which blasted Fiorina's management strategies, suggested to some that her ouster by the board of directors was not only inevitable, but pre-conceived.

Lou Hoffman, president of the Hoffman Agency, which worked with HP from 1988 to 2002, suspects the board leaked information to the media to "condition the market for [Fiorina's] dismissal."

It's too much of a coincidence for similar stories to appear just weeks apart, said Hoffman. He doesn't think the board handled it well, as there have been too many mixed messages, which he believes has left the PR team to put out fires.

Other said the media's treatment of Fiorina might simply amount to karma. HP alienated the financial press during Fiorina's reign, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group.

"The PR team didn't step up to the problem of negative press," said Enderle. "They needed to rebuild the bridge between [Fiorina] and the media, and no one did that. She never developed a relationship with them."

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