Tag Archive: Hewlett Packard


Five years ago Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPE) was kicked off the Dow Jones Industrial Average, replaced by Visa.

Three years ago, AT&T (a.k.a., The Phone Company) was ingloriously removed from the index of 30 share prices, substituted by Apple.

And just last month, General Electric (NYSE: GE) was unceremoniously ushered off the exchange for Walgreen Boots.

Will Itty Bitty Machines (NYSE: IBM) be the next Dinosaur Tech heading for Dow Jones extinction?

Flintstones vs Jetsons

Under legendary CEO Jack Welch, GE was the most valuable (market capitalization) American company in 2000. The company was one of the founding companies of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1896. General Electric was a consistent standard on the exchange since 1907, 111 years.

What have you done for us lately, Fred and Wilma Flintstone? GE was replaced on the Dow Jones two weeks ago by a drug store company? How embarrassing.

Almost DailyBrett earlier wrote about companies that are absolutely rocking (i.e.,  Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Google, Salesforce.com), metaphorically packing stadiums as opposed to those reduced to playing “greatest hits” at county fairs and desert casinos (i.e., Intel, Cisco, Dell).

These latter companies were/are directly tied to the mature PC market and thus became fairly valued with limited prospects for investor growth unless and until they credibly changed their story with compelling new information (e.g., Apple from Amelio to Jobs2 to Cook) & (e.g., Microsoft from Gates to Ballmer to Nadella).

Apple was on the precipice of bankruptcy in 1997; now the company is the world’s most valuable at $912 billion. The Wunder corporation may be first to ever to achieve a $1 trillion market cap (share price x the number of shares).

Microsoft has cleverly reinvented itself as the market leader in the cloud, even though the PC software company was late to the party. Macht nichts. MSFT has a $762 billion market cap.

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix and Salesforce.com constitute the 21st Century version of the Jetsons.

Conversely, AT&T, GE, Hewlett-Packard and IBM are the Flintstones.

What Are Their Winning Narratives?

Having worked in corporate Silicon Valley public relations for more than a decade, Almost DailyBrett understands the virtue of championing a winning narrative.

What is your company’s raison d’etre?

How does it make the legal tender?

How is the company positioned in the marketplace against ferocious competitors?

What is its competitive advantage?

What is its legacy of results?

What are the prospects for reasonable and achievable expectations for shareholder joy?

For the record, Almost DailyBrett owns shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM).

Both companies have delivered. Both are leaders in their respective fields. Most of all, your author understands their business strategies – lead in consumer innovation and services; provide selected software via the cloud to business customers).

Investing or Gambling?

When you understand how and why a company makes money then markets are investing, not gambling.

What is the winning narrative for GE? The company is restructuring yet again. Give it up J.C. Penney. Forget it, GE.

Tell me more about the business strategy for AT&T. How will it beat Verizon? Your author doesn’t know either.

Your author loves his Lenovo Ideapad. Who commercialized the PC? IBM in 1981. Reagan was president. “Watson,” can you help?

HPites love the 1937 story of HP founders William Hewlett and David Packard and the Palo Alto garage.

If the two gents could see their creation in the post-Carly Fiorina era, they would most likely would be turning over in their respective graves.

When contemplating these four Dinosaur Techs – AT&T, GE, HP, IBM — in a Jurassic Park era, the hardest questions are also the most basic: How do these companies make money? What product defines their respective businesses?

In stunning contrast, Apple is the #1 company in the world, defined by game changing innovation (e.g., iPhone X) and services (e.g., Apple Music).

Amazon is the #1 digital-retailer in the world with 100 million Prime memberships.

Facebook is the world champion social media company with 2.19 billion subscribers.

Google is the #1 search engine and developed the smart phone Android OS.

Netflix is the #1 digital-streaming-video company (at least for now) with 125 million subscribers.

Salesforce.com pioneered SaaS (Software as a Service) and is a leading-business-software-via-the-cloud provider.

Quick: Can you name a signature product/service directly associated with AT&T, GE, HP or IBM?

Being a jack of all trades, master of none leaves investors will absolutely … nothing.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/19/walgreens-replacing-ge-on-the-dow.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/what-happens-when-the-music-stops/

 

 

“Policy is important, but I also think empathy and connection are hugely important. I think that people understanding where you come from, what your story is, what your background is, is as important to any leadership role, but particularly running for the president of the United States.” – Prospective Presidential Candidate Carly Fiorina

“Empathy” is not the first word that comes to mind when Almost DailyBrett contemplates Carly Fiorina and her campaign for … (gasp) President of the United States.carly1

Sure you don’t want to run for queen instead?

Will Meryl Streep play your role in the biographical film?

Will you have a coffee-table book presidency akin to JFK?

Carly mismanaged Hewlett-Packard. And now she wants to run America?

She couldn’t beat Barbara Boxer in California in 2010. And now she thinks she can defeat Hillary Clinton, let alone Jeb Bush in 2016?

She rammed through HP’s acquisition of Compaq Computer over the objections of a founding family, when the PC market was plateauing (now it is declining 5-7 percent). And now she wants to offer her “vision” to America?

She didn’t grasp the “HP Way.” How can she connect with the “American Way”?

She is a living, breathing definition of a “plutocrat.” Is she going to release her income tax returns? She makes Mitt Romney seem like the common man.

You can just see the air-war gurus licking their collective chops at the collectivist Democratic National Committee with the prospect of Carly as the Republican standard-bearer in summer/fall of 2016.

Those who know Carly, particularly those working in Silicon Valley circa 1999-2005, are fully aware of her background and story.

It’s not a happy read.

Does she have any friends?

Lincoln, Teddy, Ike and Reagan Turning Over In Their Graves

“Citizens, you will elect me. I will be your leader.” – Kate McKinnon playing the role of Hillary Clinton on Saturday Night LivehillarySNL

Kate McKinnon of Saturday Night Live came very close to the truth with her satirical skit about über-ambitious Hillary Clinton and the prospective “First Dude,” William Jefferson Clinton.

The always kind-and-considerate Maureen Dowd touched upon Hillary’s penchant for overcorrecting in her New York Times op-ed Sunday.

Hillary’s coronation as the Democratic nominee may be a foregone conclusion; her election as Prez #45 is less so. An even-keeled Republican nominee with the right positive message could beat her.

Carly believes she is that even-keeled Republican.

When Carly looks into her full-length mirror in the morning, she sees a woman who can beat another woman. She believes with her XX chromosomes that she can close the gender gap. She’s right. Carly at the top of the GOP ticket would eliminate the Republican Party gender gap lead over the Democrats when it comes to males.

For some reason, Carly sees herself in the same vein as Republican icons: Honest Abe, Teddy, Ike and The Gipper. Are you serious, Carly?

Just as some would like to see the Clintons head off into the sunset, Almost DailyBrett wishes the same for Carly. Instead of running for president, how about grabbing your fishing pole, Carly.

Oh, you are not familiar with fishing … How pedestrian.

If the choice came down to: A.) Burning at the stake; B.) Drowning or C.) Voting for Carly … that would be a very difficult decision. Personally, I have a strong lean toward drowning.carly2

And if you see Carly on the campaign trail in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina.

Be sure to genuflect.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2015/04/16/carly-fiorina-pink-nail-polish-and-sexism/?postshare=6421429211040548

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carly_Fiorina

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hewlett-Packard

http://news.yahoo.com/fiorina-says-shed-neutralize-clintons-gender-arguments-072055839–finance.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/opinion/sunday/maureen-dowd-granny-get-your-gun.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2481395,00.asp

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/09/can-snl-s-kate-mckinnon-damage-clinton.html

http://www.wsj.com/articles/fiorinas-h-p-tenure-a-disputed-legacy-1444179445

 

 

 

 

“The sales of Apple kept getting stronger, the cash position larger, and the products more creative than any company I can ever recall – all because of the genius of one man, the founder, Steve Jobs.

“When Steve Jobs died on October 5, 2011, I told people on ‘Mad Money’ that Apple would never be the same…” – CNBC über-commentator and former hedge fund manager Jim Cramer

The Three Gees

When I joined the ranks of Silicon Valley PR directors/managers in 1995, the business media was obsessed with three CEO rock stars we called, “The Three Gees”: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Lou Gerstner (Itty Bitty Machines) and Andy Grove (Intel).

The Three Gees dominated (today’s legacy) media at the time, seemingly making every cover of the leading business magazines, namely BusinessWeek, Forbes and Fortune.

They respectively represented the software, manufacturing and semiconductor sides of the PC, and the growth of their stocks was something to behold.

jobsamelio

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple one year later – 11 years after being forced out by John Sculley and the Board of Directors of the company he created – the media coverage was breathtaking. The Mercury News above-the-fold treatment left one wondering what the editors would do for the “Second Coming.”

And yet Steve Jobs was indeed mortal. There was no OMG product that Jobs bequeathed to his successor, Tim Cook. Today, Apple is losing ground to Samsung. Will Apple ever regain its Steve Jobs-era glory? Most are betting the under.

Fast-forward to the present: Microsoft is offering new generations of Windows in the post-Gates era. IBM sold its PC division – the technology it pioneered – to China’s Lenovo. Intel and other semiconductor companies are now mere commodity suppliers to the new newsmakers, the social media (e.g., LinkedIn), cloud computing (e.g., Salesforce.com) and mobile technology (e.g., Google) firms or as Cramer says: social, cloud and mobile.

Bench Strength?

In the big four American sports, particularly beisboll, football and hockey you cannot win the World Series, Super Bowl and Stanley Cup respectively with just superstars. This is less the case with basketball, but players contributing off the bench are still needed. The point is champions must have talent, including superstars, but they also need deep benches, intelligent systems and solid coaching.

A team winning the Stanley Cup cannot just rely on one superstar center, left-wing, right-wing line, but also scoring from lines two, three and four, solid defensemen and lights-out goalies. There will be nights when the top line is not producing. That means that others must step up and contribute.

penguins

My former boss, Wilf Corrigan, founded custom-chip designer LSI Logic in 1981 and also served as its chairman and chief executive officer until he decided in concert with the company board of directors to step down in 2005. He surrounded himself with extremely talented lieutenants as mentioned in an earlier Almost DailyBrett post. They went on to serve as CEOs including: John Daane (Altera); Brian Halla (National Semiconductor); Moshe Gavrielov (Xilinx); Jen-Hsun Huang (NVIDIA); Ronnie Vashishta (eASIC) and Bruce Entin (Silicon Valley Communication Partners).

The most important point is that Wilf, despite his status as a captain of industry, did not want the LSI Logic story to be exclusively about him. He also wanted to feature his deep bench. Instead of the first-person singular (e.g., I, me, myself), he insisted on personally speaking in the first-person plural (e.g., we, us, ours). He wanted the same for those who spoke on behalf of the company team … that would be me.

The Imperial CEO

carly1

Just last week, The Economist cited Czarina Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, in a story as to why female CEOs are more likely to be shown the door – the glass cliff — as opposed to their male counterparts. The central reason offered was that female CEOs are more likely to be hired from outside to save the day.

The Economist cited the “disproportionate publicity” that Carly received in her rocky tenure, making her a media star and synonymous with her company Hewlett Packard (particularly during the Compaq acquisition debacle) and ultimately contributing to her demise.

mayer

Almost DailyBrett wrote earlier about glamorous Yahoo! rock star Marissa Mayer, and her decision to pose horizontally for Vogue. The question was asked then, and asked again now whether we care as much about Yahoo! as we do about Mayer? Maybe the coming $15 billion – $16 billion IPO of Chinese digital retailer, Alibaba, will bring some attention back to 13.6 percent part-owner, Yahoo!

We should also not lose sight that Mayer came to Yahoo! from Google. Is there another glass cliff in the offing?

“Tesla is Elon Musk”

Last week, a CNBC talking-head analyst declared that electronic car innovator Tesla was in reality an ion-battery maker in drag.

CNBC anchor Bill Griffeth replied that Tesla is Elon Musk. Guess the same would apply to privately held, rocket maker SpaceX. According to a recent profile on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Musk devotes three days of his typical week to SpaceX, two days to publicly traded Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) and two days to his relatively new wife and five sons from his previous marriage.

Can Musk petition for weeks to be extended to nine days?

As a shareholder of Tesla and as a public relations counselor/commentator for three decades, Musk comes across as a good guy and relatively modest. He simply calls himself an “engineer.” Whether he likes it or not, he is first and foremost a technology rock star.

So what should Tesla, SpaceX and Musk do?

At a minimum, they all should be thinking about succession planning even though Musk is only 42 years young. The comparisons made by 60 Minutes and others, comparing Musk to Jobs, should be seen as both extremely flattering and downright scary.

Tesla and SpaceX seemingly have extremely talented corporate lieutenants. We need to see them and get to know them. Will they replace Musk in stature? No. Having said that, there will be a future of these companies after Musk, just as there was a future for Apple after Jobs.

muskstraubel1

For example we could learn more about Tesla’s chief technology officer JB Straubel, who rebuilt a discarded electric golf cart at 14-years young. Today, the Stanford grad in energy engineering is now tasked at building an affordable (e.g., $30,000) Tesla electric car with acceptable range.

The same will eventually be true for the leading rocket scientists (they really are rocket scientists) at SpaceX, particularly if Musk decides to take the company public.

The Tesla and SpaceX teams need to remember that running a company is not a sprint, but a marathon. To make it for the long-run and go deep into the playoffs, you need a seasoned team and a strong contributing bench.

http://www.amazon.com/Jim-Cramers-Get-Rich-Carefully/dp/0399168184

http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/03/27/briefly-steve-jobs-1996-return-to-apple-depicted-in-rare-set-of-photos

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21601554-why-female-bosses-fail-more-often-male-ones-glass-precipice

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/mayer-vogue-nasdaq-yhoo/

http://www.teslamotors.com/executives

 

 

 

 

mayer

According to CNBC.com, the unscientific polling of online respondents runs 60-40 percent in favor of Marissa Ann Mayer’s horizontal glamour photo in the latest edition of Vogue.

Keep in mind that result still represents a healthy percentage, who question the decision of the telegenic blonde ex-Google executive, now President and CEO of the Sunnyvale-based web-portal, search-engine provider, Yahoo!

No one would deny that Mayer, 38, has the discretion to make herself available for the photographers and writers of the renowned fashion magazine Vogue. The questions that come to mind concern the timing and the impact on the Mayer and Yahoo! brands.

Taking a gander at Mayer’s feet slightly above her head Vogue photo spread, one may be reminded of Bill Clinton’s eye-brow raising, open-legs 2000 cover shot for Esquire, rekindling memories of Bill, Monica and Kenneth Starr.

How many other publicly traded company CEOs would be invited by Vogue to pose in a horizontal fashion? What subliminal messages are being sent, particularly in a predominant Silicon Valley engineering culture? Talk about tongues wagging at the water cooler and the inevitable social media chat.

Maybe that is what this gambit is all about?

Let’s face it: The music had stopped playing for Yahoo! Even though Mayer has been able to raise Yahoo’s share price by 74 percent to $27.35, drive market capitalization and acquire Tumblr, the world does not speak of Mayer’s company in the same fashion as it does for Apple, Salesforce, Amazon, LinkedIn, Netflix, Facebook and of course her biggest rival, Google.

Having said that, there is no doubt the tech community is talking about Mayer. For Vogue, the editors are following the tried-and-true axiom: Sex sells. Is Yahoo! about sex or about technology?

And what is the paramount brand: Yahoo! or Mayer?

There is always a danger that is associated with the imperial CEO and the company becoming an interchangeable brand…or worse, the CEO is the brand. Oracle is Larry Ellison. Sun Microsystems was Scott McNealy. Apple was Steve Jobs. Hewlett-Packard for six years became Carly Fiorina.

There was Carly, Carly and still more Carly.

Has $117 million (over five years) Marissa become a more beautiful-and-fashionable version of Carly? Carly and HP became synonymous in that order with disastrous results. To this day, Hewlett-Packard has never recovered from the Carly era complete with the ill-advised and divisive acquisition of Compaq Computer as the PC market was maturing and stalling.

What happens to Yahoo! if something (heaven forbid) happens to Marissa? Do we lose interest in Yahoo!? Who else matters at Yahoo!? Is Marissa grooming a successor and a deep bench? Will she also be invited to pose horizontally in a Michael Kors dress?

In public relations, timing is everything.

Mayer has been on the job for only 13 months. She already delivered her new son, Macallister. She took off two weeks for maternity leave, built a nursery right next to her office and earned the rhetorical slings and arrows treatment usually reserved for Republicans from the always kind-and-considerate, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times.

She is just now getting into her groove. Shouldn’t she spend more time driving revenues and promoting profitability at the also-ran, search-engine provider, Yahoo!, before venturing off into the high-fashion world of Vogue? Her main competition is her former employer, Google. What’s worse is Google has become of the few companies that is actually a verb as in “Google this!” or “Google that!”

She is described by CNBC as “successful, strong and beautiful.” Still one must ask: Has she done enough for Yahoo!? Is her star rising faster and higher than Yahoo!? Is there a danger here?

One thing is certain when it comes to the media; the beast is the direct opposite of the U.S. Marine Corps. The folks at Camp Pendleton are renowned for breaking you down and then building you back up. The media specializes in building you up and then quickly bringing you down to earth in an unceremonious fashion.

Carly has first-hand experience when it comes to a Silicon Valley CEO ascending into the stratosphere and then crashing in the desert.

There are many, who will not celebrate Mayer’s celebrity. They will engage in Schadenfreude, when the inevitable bumps in the road ensue for Mayer and her company.

Maybe her company still matters.

And hopefully she didn’t peak to early.

Did the blood rush to her head when she posed with her heels elevated above her?

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100968027

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/what-happens-when-the-music-stops/

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/15083.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marissa_Mayer

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/08/16/marissa-mayer-yahoo-ceo-vogue-magazine-profile/2647691/

http://www.yahoo.com/

http://pressroom.yahoo.net/pr/ycorp/marissa-mayer.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carly_Fiorina

http://guestofaguest.com/things-we-love/our-favorite-retro-remakes-6-iconic-photo-recreations&slide=5

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/opinion/dowd-get-off-your-cloud.html?_r=0

http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/20/living/marissa-mayers-vogue-photo-women/

“I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success.” Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney

Is Suite H33, Kirkland House at Harvard University the most famous dorm room in the nation?

Or maybe it is located in Dobie House at the University of Texas in Austin?

Or should we focus instead on a garage, maybe one located in Palo Alto, California?

As we struggle to escape the clutches of an increasingly stubborn economic downturn, perhaps we should be looking for a new kind a “stimulus” in the form of more dreamers, achievers, inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs.

Mark Zuckerberg wrote the algorithms as seen in the film, The Social Network, that would eventually turn into Facebook on a whiteboard in a cluttered Harvard dorm room in 2003. Today, Facebook has more than 800 million subscribers, making this social media community the third largest “country” in the world. More than 3,000 people work for Facebook and a potential second quarter IPO is in the offing. If so, it will be the ultimate ka-ching.

kirkland

Michael Dell started building and selling his own brand of computers for fellow UT classmates for under $1,000 each in 1983. There was no need for a middle man, and thus a business strategy was born. Today, Dell has $61.7 billion in annual revenues, a market cap (share price x number of shares) of $28.5 billion and employs 100,300 worldwide.

Bill Hewlett and David Packard started in 1937 what would eventually become Hewlett Packard in a tiny one car garage at 367 Addison Street in Palo Alto, CA.  To many this little garage is considered to be the birthplace of Silicon Valley. Today, HP is one of the largest technology companies on the planet with $127 billion in revenues, a market cap of $52.5 billion and employing almost 350,000 souls worldwide.

Certainly these are not the only entrepreneurs that have been successful as there are many more, some of them coming to America without the ability to speak English, but they all had the capacity to dream.

For more than a decade, I worked for one of those entrepreneurs, Wilfred J. Corrigan. He is now the fifth most famous person to hail from Liverpool, UK. No one knew him when he came to America with no income, flying his bride from the fjords of her native Norway to the Sonoran Deserts of Arizona. He worked on the assembly line for Motorola in Phoenix. Eventually, Wilf became the CEO of Fairchild; later losing the company in a hostile takeover attempt. He spent a year under a no-compete contract. And then started LSI Logic in 1981.

Wilf Corrigan, CEO of LSI Logic

The company eventually grew to $2.7 billion in revenues with 7,700 employees and made the essential processor for the two generations of the Sony Play Station. It all started with a dream. And as a result of Wilf’s dream, thousands were working directly (employees) or indirectly (e.g. distributors, partners, suppliers) and thousands of B2B customers and their customers were being served (e.g. video game players among others). Wilf succeeded, failed and succeeded again. He is part of the 1 percent that you may have read about.

As we survey the economic landscape looking for answers, there are some who believe the key lies in leveling the playing field, particularly those who achieve. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

According to the independent Tax Policy Center, 46 percent or about 76 million will not be liable for federal income taxes in 2011. That’s a whole lot of people for whatever reason, who are not achieving, some of which could be achieving a whole lot more. Granted, the ones who are employed are paying payroll taxes and contributing to Social Security.

What would happen if this 55-45 percent taxpaying to no taxpaying ratio was shifted to a 65-35 percent taxpaying to no taxpaying ratio under existing tax rates? What would happen if for example, 20 million more Americans were liable for federal income taxes without raising or lowering rates? What would be positive net income to the federal Treasury? If these 20 million would earn enough to pay taxes, would they also increase their own economic activity? What impact would that increased activity have on the federal Treasury, but also the account statements for states and municipalities?

After 15 years working in the Silicon Valley, I learned to believe in innovation and entrepreneurship. The net results are good products, good paying direct and indirect jobs. The ideas are out there. There are also risks. As a result, some will succeed and some will fail. That is the tyranny of the marketplace, but it is also the opportunity. We need to start listening to the conversations and ideas germinating from dorm rooms and garages. Who knows, the next Facebook, Dell or Hewlett Packard may be taking form.

And with these new ideas turned into new companies comes more job opportunities for the 46 percent that are not liable for federal income taxes.

Sure beats throwing money at a Bridge to Nowhere.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB95KLmpLR4

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/sep/12/social-network-facebook-mark-zuckerberg

http://www.kirkland.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do

http://content.dell.com/us/en/corp/brand-entrepreneurship

http://www.cs.utexas.edu/news-events/news/2011/michael-dell-speaks-during-return-campus

http://www.biography.com/people/michael-dell-9542199

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HP_Garage

http://money.cnn.com/2011/04/14/pf/taxes/who_pays_income_taxes/index.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/28/46-percent-of-americans-e_n_886293.html

http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2005/10/the-bridge-to-nowhere-a-national-embarrassment

State of Mediocrity

“It deeply saddens me that some people in power in our state continue to drive Oregon into a death spiral with their embrace of mediocrity.” – Nike founder Phil Knight.

unclephil

Oregonians deserve better than struggling to avoid mediocrity,” – University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere today before he was fired by the Oregon State Board of Education.

lariviere

With the exception of West Virginia breaking away from Virginia at the onset of the Civil War, I don’t know of any other states that have actually changed their name. Maybe the time has come for a second state to change its name.

The vapid intellectual tundra lying between Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada and Idaho to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west that used to be called Oregon should now be officially recognized as the State of Mediocrity.

Each year there would be a Civil War game between the University of Mediocrity Ducks and the Mediocrity State Beavers. The winner of the game would be guaranteed a slot in the most average of all college bowl games, the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl in Boise. Maybe, Mediocrity Governor John Kitzhaber could throw out the first potato into the snow?

kitzhaber

Come on Oregonians…err..Mediocritans, it’s time to continue our eternal quest to be average, to be mundane, to be just so-so. Let’s insist on paying other people to pump gas into our cars in the interest of ensuring the perpetuation of low-quality jobs for petroleum-transfer engineers. Maybe what’s left of our universities can produce graduates who are uniquely prepared to pump gas, tend bar, pick up garbage and most of all being prepared to ask: “Would you like fries with that hamburger?”

Even with the myriad of challenges that California faces, it still has great universities such as Stanford and UC Berkeley that are producing the brains that directly lead to Silicon Valley innovation. A telling Harvard Business Review study would compare the fate of two similar companies founded at the same time, one in California and one in Oregon. The companies are Hewlett-Packard and Tektronix…Tek-Who?

The State of Mediocrity strategically stands right on the edge of the Pacific Rim and its children will be uniquely prepared to report to their future bosses located in China, India, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and (gasp) California…that assumes they can get a job.

Richard Lariviere took a principled stand against the notion of communal poverty, the idea that the only method of addressing economic inequality is to make everyone equally miserable. “Thirty years of disinvestment in higher education have left the university and all of its sister institutions impoverished,” he said. “The structures now in place for financing and governing our universities offer no hope for moving us out of this poverty.”

Lariviere’s sin (no good deed goes unpunished) was to dream big. He did not see the University of Oregon and Eastern Oregon University on the same academic playing field. Quick: Where is Eastern Oregon located? I don’t know either.

There are two Carnegie Doctoral Research Universities in the State of Oregon, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University…sorry Western Oregon, Southern Oregon, Eastern Oregon, Portland State University, but you simply didn’t make the cut. Now why can the Carnegie folks figure out that certain universities deserve a “research” status and others do not? Maybe, it’s because they do not work for government bureaucracies.

US News and World Report in its annual rankings of public universities ranks the University of Oregon #46. The next highest Oregon university, OSU, stands at #69. Sorry Eastern Oregon, Western Oregon, Southern Oregon… I stopped reading after 110 slots and I did not see any other ranked Oregon public universities.

Isn’t it ironic that Oregon is allowed compete for its third straight conference championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl on Friday, but the state’s flagship university is impeded from aspiring to become a UC Berkeley, a UVA, a University of Michigan, a University of Texas? Will Governor Kitzhaber fire Chip Kelly because he dreams of championships? Maybe a perfectly equal 6-6 record would be more appropriate for the State of Mediocrity?

Lariviere was terminated officially for insubordination. He dared to pay his faculty members what they deserved to stop the flight of talent from the University of Oregon. This action did not sit well with Governor Kitzhaber and the board. Rarely is being a lone ranger ever rewarded.

Having worked for a governor (not Kitzhaber) for eight years, I understand completely the role of a state’s chief executive and the power of the purse strings…that power is subsiding. A generation ago, 25 percent of the funding for the University of Oregon came from Salem; today that figure is a single-digit.

In the end, President Lariviere dared greatly. He lived the words of Teddy Roosevelt when it comes to competing in the arena. I can’t say the same for Governor Kitzhaber.

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt

http://www.washington.edu/tools/universities.html

http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/top-public

Whatever happened to Scott McNealy?

We know what happened to his company; Sun Microsystems was swallowed up by Oracle.

And Steve Ballmer? Well, he is the chief executive officer of Softwaremeister Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) with a market capitalization in excess of $200 billion.

And what about “Butthead?” Not MTV’s Beavis and Butthead, but the object of McNealy’s snide quip…His name is Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet and a philanthropist. You may have heard of him.

ballmergates

Sometimes reporters, editors, bloggers, analysts, investors bestow rock-star status on C-level executives. And in return, some of these very same executives earn their stripes in part by resorting to let’s say “provocative” activities or tactics. Are these antics, including old-fashioned name calling, in the best interest of shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers and partners…the very same people for whom they have taken a vow of fiduciary responsibility?

“Ballmer and Butthead” is like catnip to the Fourth Estate Crowd, but is it really that funny when the company’s stock is in single digits and heading further south? How about concentrating on your business…a business that is now a part of Silicon Valley’s history.

Why even bring this matter up when Nasdaq: SUNW does not even exist anymore? That’s just the point. As difficult as it may be, C-level executives should be discouraged from engaging in sophomoric behavior and statements by their public relations counsel. The very people who you are denigrating today, you may be facing across a negotiating table tomorrow. Sun ultimately accepted $2 billion from Microsoft to end the protracted litigation between the companies. And Sun was desperate for the cash.

Certainly Scott is not the only former or present executive guilty of bombastic rhetoric, but boardroom deportment is even more important in these days in which literally trillions of dollars of aggregate personal wealth is being erased in just a matter of days, if not hours.

Personally, I would never offer investment advice to anyone and you would wise to not accept Wall Street counsel from me, except for one point: I never invest in companies in which I do not condone the behavior of the CEO. I am also very wary of companies in which the CEO and the company are synonymous terms…Hello Steve Jobs. What’s your blood pressure today?

There is no denying that McNealy is super bright with an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a MBA from Stanford…after all, Sun stands for Stanford University Network. Having said that, there is a difference between bright and smart: “Ballmer and Butthead” in hindsight was barely clever and not smart.

mcnealy

I stayed away from investing in Hewlett-Packard during the imperial reign of Carly Fiorina. Her efforts to bludgeon the HP culture into acquiring Compaq left permanent scars. Her fights with the media, particularly the San Jose Mercury News, were undertaken without the prospect of an upside. She was forced to resign three years later as HP’s CEO. Last year, she ran and lost in her attempt to wrest a Senate seat away from Barbara Boxer in California. And today… (she just won’t simply go away), she is working with the GOP Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Another stock that had the effect of a crucifix to a vampire for me was Advanced Micro Devices or AMD under the notorious direction of Jerry Sanders. Brash and colorful, Jerry was the ultimate loose cannon beyond any kind of reasonable control by his PR handlers (probably too strong of a word). Jerry was going to say what Jerry was going to say.

There was the night that he concluded an annual Semiconductor Industry Association dinner with “We have come a long way since the days we were fighting the Japs (over trade access).” He is (mis)credited for inventing the term that “Real men have fabs,” prompting semiconductor makers without their own factories…or fabs…to establish their own trade association, the Fabless Semiconductor Association, now the Global Semiconductor Alliance.

And of course my all time favorite from Jerry: “Money is life’s report card.” Guess that means Mother Teresa really sucked at life.

When it comes to corporate excess, no one does it better than Larry Ellison of Oracle…The planes, the yachts, the mansions, the divorces…And how many people are unemployed in this country? How many are underwater on their mortgages? How many are afraid to open up their investment portfolios? Larry doesn’t need my money, but I have made a vow to never invest in Oracle regardless of the company’s financial results as long as Larry is in charge.

The bottom line is that C-Level behavior does matter. Some are willing to look the other way just as long as the company is doing well. And what happens when the sun starts sinking against the horizon and the stock heads south? The “Ballmer and Butthead” quotes aren’t so funny. As John Madden once said: “When you are winning no one can hurt you; when you are losing, no one can help you.”

http://www.edn.com/article/479110-Ballmer_Butthead_and_McNealy.php

http://www.cbronline.com/blogs/technology/best_mcnealy_qu

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_McNealy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Microsystems

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2011/07/carly-fiorina-senate-republican-campaign-committee-nrsc/1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Sanders_(businessman)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Ellison

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAAirNeKWxQ

http://www.motherteresa.org/

In the age of the “forward” button on the Microsoft Outlook toolbar, there is no such thing as a family letter for major publicly traded corporations, particularly one with more than 300,000 employees, $114 billion in revenues and $98 billion in market capitalization.

So if this truth is indivisible, you might as well treat an employee letter as any other public transmission to Wall Street, your customers, your partners, your suppliers, both the financial (buy and sell side) and the market analyst communities and of course the media.

Let’s face it, Hewlett-Packard through no fault of its own fired the shot Hurd around the tech world Friday with the stunning news that Mark Hurd was being removed as CEO. The cause was the announced falsification of expense reports in a sexual harassment case involving a very good-looking 50-year-old marketer by the name of Jodie Fisher.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703309704575413663370670900.html

There will be those who will criticize HP’s handling of this fire drill, and only time will tell how well they handled the damage. The Almost DailyBrett immediate take was the company was smart and SEC-compliant in immediately announcing the stunning development. http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press/2010/100806a.html Included in that announcement was an update on the upcoming third quarter results on both a GAAP and non-GAAP (pro forma) basis as well as using the same metrics for the 2010 fiscal year. The first indication of the success of this strategy will be revealed in the first few hours of trading on Monday.

(Almost DailyBrett note: HPQ was taking a 7 percent hair cut around noon EDT on Monday…pretty much what you would expect).

The company announced that a very familiar name, company CFO Cathie Lesjak, would serve as interim CEO, even though she is not seeking the job on a full-time basis. A global search, including candidates both inside and outside HP, has commenced (no reason to introduce another Carly Fiorina into the mix).

Included in the strategy was Lesjak’s letter to employees, which she knew would be leaked in nanoseconds. The obvious purpose was not just to prop up morale and foster retention of the best and the brightest, but to reassure investors, including all of those employees with ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Plans) and stock options.  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704182304575416002591565396.html

“While this news is unexpected, HP remains in an exceptionally strong position both financially and in the marketplace,” she was quoted in the letter. “It is essential, however, that we remain focused and continue to achieve – if not exceed – our operational and financial objectives.

“…As we regularly remind all employees, each of us is expected to adhere strictly to the Standards of Business Conduct in all of our business dealings and relationships. This expectation applies with even greater force to HP’s CEO and other senior executives who, given their positions, must set the highest standard for professional and personal conduct. The investigation that was conducted revealed that Mark had failed to meet this standard.

(There is probably no better time in HP’s history to remind employees that the rules apply to everyone, including well compensated CEOs).

“We recognize that this change in leadership is unexpected news. We also know that HP’s success in recent years is due to the collective efforts and hard work of more than 300,000 talented employees who have formulated far-reaching strategies and achieved our objectives better than anyone else in the industry.

(Good time to work on retention in the face of a morale-impacting, confidence-shaking announcement)

“…In closing, I would like to thank each of you for your contributions to HP, and to ask that in the weeks and months to come we do everything to ensure that HP’s future, like its past, is one of innovation, operational excellence, and the delivery of world-class products and services.”

(Almost DailyBrett postscript: Ms. Jodie Fisher says ex-cathedra that her relationship with Mark Hurd was not sexual…and yet a sexual harassment claim and falsified expense reports. This one is difficult to believe.) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/08/AR2010080800296.html?wpisrc=nl_headline

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