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Carly Fiorina Discusses Her Time as Hewlett-Packard CEO

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," October 10, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, Carly Fiorina, once the powerful female executive on the planet; then, she was canned in a boardroom boot.

Nearly two years later, Carly is back in the spotlight with a new tell-all book called "Tough Choices" — instantly rocketed up the bestseller charts — just as her former company, Hewlett-Packard, is embroiled in a spy scandal.

Carly Fiorina joins me right now in a rare one-on-one chat.

Good to have you. Congratulations on all this.

CARLY FIORINA, FORMER HEWLETT-PACKARD CEO: Great to be with you, Neil. Thanks.

CAVUTO: You timed this, didn't you, the scandal, everything else, with a book coming out?

(LAUGHTER)

FIORINA: No.

You know, sometimes, things just happen. I finished writing this book on March 31. We had planned to launch it the week that we are launching it. So...

CAVUTO: Yes.

And the fact of the matter, you don't address the leak issue, per se. You — you talk a little bit about some talkative board members who might have been talking to other people, and — and damning you. But this was sort of like a — to the eyes of a public, a recent phenomena. Was it?

FIORINA: Well, I think one of the things I talk about in my book is a board that became dysfunctional, because personal agendas and personal animosities became more important than the larger issues of the company. And I think, in some ways, what you are seeing play out now is some of that same dysfunction, in a very sad and, frankly, shocking way.

CAVUTO: All right.

But, now, when you were looking into boardroom leaks yourself — it happens in companies all the time, as have you stated. But — but getting the phone records of journalists, going to the degree that — that some...

FIORINA: No.

CAVUTO: ... Hewlett-Packard members are charged with doing...

FIORINA: No.

CAVUTO: ... it's pretty bad stuff, right?

FIORINA: Well, look, I think you deal with tough issues with straight talk, right up on the table.

And, so, when we were faced with a leak, we had — I had direct conversations with board members, which were uncomfortable for some of them. And, then, I had our outside attorney have more direct conversations with them. But it was all about a direct conversation.

CAVUTO: Well, what is a direct conversation?

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Would you say, look, are you talking to the media? Would it be that?

FIORINA: Yes.

Well, we had a board call, where I informed the board of what happened. And I said, look, we can't function as a board if we don't have confidence and trust among each other. To me, the leak was symptomatic of a broader problem, board dysfunction. And, so, we had to have a direct conversation up on the table, face to face, about board dysfunction.

It wasn't spying on people, or whatever seems to have happened here. It was...

CAVUTO: But it was, right?

FIORINA: Not in my time.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: OK.

FIORINA: Not in my time.

CAVUTO: So, if you are a ticked-off CEO, and you know some members of the board are pulling a Judas on you, you want to find out which ones, right?

FIORINA: Well, you know, what was most important to me, knowing that we were aligned on our strategy and on the operational plan for 2005 that had just been unanimously approved, what was important to me was, as members of an organization, the board, we had to talk directly with one another about why some of us were choosing to speak outside the boardroom, when they weren't speaking inside the boardroom.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Maybe they just didn't like you. You know what I'm saying?

Now, I remember distinctly when you came over to — to Hewlett-Packard. And everyone was like — you know, who is this hard-charging, young go-getter? You automatically identified as hot-shot female, or outstanding female. You even address how you found that kind of insulting in the book.

Nevertheless, that's how you were viewed. And — and — and I think you were like a bull in the china shop when you came over there. Were you?

FIORINA: Well, my mandate was to transform a company.

And it was an iconic company with a deep culture. And the transformation of that company, from a lagging bureaucracy to a competitive, leading meritocracy, took an incredible amount of work. And it's natural...

CAVUTO: But it was more than that, because you had the — the — the — the descendants of the founders of the company...

FIORINA: It was hard.

CAVUTO: ... who didn't flip over you.

FIORINA: Change is always resisted.

CAVUTO: Do you think you should have sucked up to them more coming in?

FIORINA: You know, for better or for worse, I'm a direct person.

And I think the only way to deal with tough issues, whether they are around the dinner table, or around the board table, is to talk candidly about them, and then talk together about how you are going to address them.

That is what we did at Hewlett-Packard. And it is why, in fact, the company was transformed and is now leading.

CAVUTO: But do you think that the leaks and some of the stuff that happened, or the — the — the backstabbing that was going on, even when you were there on the board, was just because they didn't like you?

FIORINA: Well, you know, I went into business because I thought it was about results.

(LAUGHTER)

FIORINA: So, if people's emotions are overcoming their business judgment, that's not an effective board member.

CAVUTO: But Patricia Dunn, fast-forward, the former chairwoman, talking about these kind of leaks, talking about the kind of stuff that happened way after you left...

FIORINA: Yes.

CAVUTO: ... she said, if you think that Hewlett-Packard is the only company that has an investigation force — I'm shortening it — you are being naive.

Is she right?

FIORINA: I had never heard of the kind of investigation that apparently went on. I have — I have looked at the report. I have seen my name in it. I mean, it's fairly chilling. Do companies...

CAVUTO: Well, they were spying on you.

FIORINA: Yes.

CAVUTO: What did they — what — did they take your phone record?

FIORINA: Well, I — I have looked at a report where my telephone numbers, cell phones were apparently looked at.

I mean, I know what every other reporter knows at this point, no more, no less. However, of course companies have to investigate allegations of fraud that are brought about by employees.

CAVUTO: They just went one too far, right? I mean, this idea of pretexting, impersonating, so you can get the phone records, that...

FIORINA: Well...

CAVUTO: That will be an illegal act in January 1 in California.

FIORINA: I think...

CAVUTO: So, if they did that, that's...

FIORINA: I think, if you are...

CAVUTO: That's illegal, right?

FIORINA: If you are investigating — set aside issues of legality for just a moment. Let's talk about judgment, perspective, ethics.

If you are investigating the abuse of company resources on company time, fraud, that's one thing. If you are investigating people's personal behavior on their personal time, that's another thing.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Yes. Yes.

All right, Carly, we are going to take a quick break.

The book is "Tough Choices." Carly Fiorina is the woman — taking a look right now at what some say is a very bright political career, should she choose that, now that she's a hotsy-totsy bestseller author and all of that stuff.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: More with Carly after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAVUTO: All right. Welcome back, continuing my conversation with former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, the author of a tough book in its right, "Tough Choices," that just rocketed up the bestseller list. A little scandal going on in H.P. probably didn't hurt matters any, but it's a very good book. I don't think I'm being disingenuous there.

Let me talk a little bit about the role of — you were a prominent woman. You always made these top 10, top 50 lists. But it bothered you, in a way, that you were always the outstanding woman, the up-and-coming female executive. So, even then, when you were doing it, it wasn't as commonplace as it is today, but it was — it was not uncommon. It bugged you. Why?

FIORINA: You know, it bugged me from the very first time I became the most powerful businesswoman in America. It was such a caricature.

Look, it's — it's very flattering. And I think it's wonderful to highlight successful women in business, because, hopefully, it encourages more women to enter business. But...

CAVUTO: But would you have gotten any of this attention if you were a man?

FIORINA: Well, look, the list implies that business is like tennis. There is the women's ladder and the men's ladder, and we have two separate ladders, because we can't compete against each other.

The point, hopefully, is for business to become a gender-blind, colorblind environment, because that makes business better. And, so, in some ways, the list, to me, feels like a step backyard. Highlight successful women, but don't say they got to have their own list, because they can't play with the boys.

CAVUTO: Yes.

Mark Hurd, you know, the company has been doing very great under his stewardship. Stock has done well. Earnings are way up. Is it him? Is it you?

FIORINA: I think it's both. You know, it's clear that the merger that was so controversial when we first proposed it was absolutely the right move for the company.

CAVUTO: You are talking about Hewlett-Packard and Compaq.

FIORINA: Exactly.

The success that H.P. is experiencing right now is directly as a result of a very tough choice.

CAVUTO: So, they let you go before you had a chance to prove it?

FIORINA: Well, we knew that year 2005 was going to be a payoff year in the results, not to mention...

CAVUTO: Yes.

FIORINA: ... a rebounding economy. We knew that. The board knew it.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Yes.

But, after all that happened, I assume had you H.P. computers at home. Did you throw them all out?

FIORINA: No.

CAVUTO: Did you throw the printers out?

FIORINA: No, no. I love H.P.

CAVUTO: Really?

FIORINA: I have a lot of friends there.

CAVUTO: What do you use now?

FIORINA: I think it's a terrific...

CAVUTO: What do you use now?

FIORINA: I use a Hewlett-Packard computer and a Hewlett-Packard printer.

CAVUTO: You do not.

FIORINA: I do.

CAVUTO: Really?

FIORINA: Absolutely...

CAVUTO: OK.

FIORINA: ... I do.

CAVUTO: All right.

So, you still use Hewlett-Packard stuff, still like the company. You left there a multi-gazillionaire, so, it didn't — didn't...

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: Well, look, I had a very generous severance package. But it...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: It was in excess of $21 million, right?

FIORINA: It was $21 million.

CAVUTO: It was?

FIORINA: Yes.

CAVUTO: That's a nice chunk of change.

FIORINA: It's a wonderful chunk of change.

CAVUTO: That's Bill O'Reilly...

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: I'm incredibly blessed.

CAVUTO: OK.

Now, you have more than enough money to take care of yourself. Everyone says, she is going to run for office. Is she?

FIORINA: Well, I might. I might. You know, and I'm not trying to be coy. You and I talked about...

CAVUTO: You were always coy when you were with me in the prior...

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: Well, it's...

CAVUTO: One talk was run for Senate in California. Another was governor of California. What?

FIORINA: Well, the reality is, I haven't made that decision yet. It is something that I have been considering. It is something that others have talked to me about.

CAVUTO: Cabinet posts?

FIORINA: Public service is of interest to me. I have had a long and rich and wonderful business career. I may run a company again. But I also am engaged in public service activities today. And I think it's a place where I could make a contribution.

CAVUTO: Does any of this mean you are damaged goods, though, or no?

FIORINA: Well, I certainly hope not.

I think that — look, I was asked to transform a company. That is what I and tens of thousands of employees did. We transformed it from a lagger to a leader, by the numbers. If you look at the numbers, it was clear the trajectory the company was on. People get fired a lot. Mine happened to be more dramatic than many.

(LAUGHTER)

FIORINA: But I'm very proud of my time there.

CAVUTO: All right.

So, when do you run for office, you are going to come here and tell us which office?

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: You will be the first to know, Mr. Cavuto.

CAVUTO: I want to hold...

FIORINA: I know.

CAVUTO: I will hold you to that. I will hold you to that.

FIORINA: I told you that last time, too.

CAVUTO: Carly Fiorina.

The book is "Tough Choices." It's everywhere right now.

And I don't think we have heard the last of this young lady.

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