HP scandal, day 2: Media rushes to claim credit
Perhaps Hewlett-Packard would be better off without a board? That's the conclusion one is tempted to draw after the widely covered airing of directorial dirty laundry - now into its second day of blanket media coverage. But where would the business press be without the HP directors who have inadvertently been the source or subject of some of the Fortune 500's best gossip in recent years?
The blogs, of course, are off on a righteous rant. Fired up by Mr. Perkins' letter to the board (now available online), Paul Kedrosky writes, "It's time HP shareholders did what HP's board lacked the balls to do: Call for Ms. Dunn's resignation." Robert Scoble, the former Microsoft blogger now at a startup, wonders smugly "HP, do you have any honor?"
Meanwhile the mainstream media are rushing to claim credit for HP's headaches. CNET's coverage explains most of the current drama as stemming from a January 2006 leak to News.com ("The article apparently angered HP chairwoman Patricia Dunn, leading her to authorize an investigation to determine the story's source.") Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal takes a longer - and most likely more complete - view, though no less self-congratulatory. Alan Murray wrote yesterday that the dismal leak-anger-snoop cycle began during the last days of the Fiorina tenure, with, you guessed it, an intrepid WSJ reporter being at the heart of the problem.
Fortune is hardly above self-promotion, of course, so we'll point out in passing that missing from either the WSJ account or CNET's coverage is mention of Carol Loomis' earlier and award-winning cover story, widely thought to have precipitated Fiorina's ouster, or her follow-up "How the HP Board KO'd Carly." Fortune's David Kirkpatrick is now calling for Dunn's head - we'll have to wait and see how that plays out.
Moral? Boardroom soap operas are catnip for the business press, and one should be wary of exaggeration on all sides. The winner here, ironically, may well be Fiorina, whose set-the-record-straight book is due from Penguin next month. Could her PR team have dreamt of a better walk-up to the inevitable book tour? The only important question is whether it will sell more copies than Mr. Perkins' Sex and the Single Zillionaire.
I couldn't agree more. Dunn has betrayed the confidence of investors, customers, and employees. Dunn must go.
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