Burrows, who reported on the merger of technology rivals Hewlett-Packard and Compaq for Business Week during late 2001 and early 2002, turns the notes from his day job into an uncompromising look at the deal and the woman who set it in motion, HP CEO Carleton Fiorina. Although George Anders's Perfect Enough (Forecasts, Jan. 20) covers the same territory, this account distinguishes itself with a deeper portrait Fiorina. Beginning with her childhood as Cary Carleton Sneed, Burrows traces Fiorina's ascent through a second-tier MBA program to early positions at AT&T and Lucent, uncovering former associates who shadow her success story with tales of ruthless ambition and a tendency to abandon ventures before she could be tainted by their failure. Burrows also depicts the discord within HP ranks over Fiorina, whose marketing-honed strategies were seen as a betrayal of the "HP Way," the leadership principles establishe d by the company's founders. Walter Hewlett, the second-gene ration director whose opposition to the merger intensified the shareholders' vote, gets substantially less play here than in Anders's version, and Burrows is much less accepting of Hewlett's version of events. But his skepticism also applies to HP's enthusiasm for the Compaq deal, which many industry experts scorned as a recipe for disaster. HP executives eventually stopped cooperating with Burrows once they determined they wouldn't be able to spin his reportage, but the book still manages to provide a richly detailed version of the legal wrangling that finally brought the deal to a close Although the prose is somewhat hurried, the comprehensive and near-instantaneous analysis will impress business readers. Agent, Martha Millard. (Feb.)
Forecast: This book and Perfect Enough have already been getting media coverage and will surely show up in the pages of every business magazine. Those curious enough will buy both books, though our preference lies with Burrows's account. (Publishers Weekly, February 10, 2003)
Backfire: Carly Fiorina's High-Stakes Battle for the Soul of Hewlett-Packard by Peter Burrows:
Suggests Fiorina's three-year tenure has not reversed H-P's decline and intimates H-P culture and traditions have been lost.
Explores Fiorina's personal life (childhood, two marriages) and professional background (specifically her moves at AT&T and Lucent) to identify character traits that drive her business dealings and "let them eat cake" reputation.
Gives ample space to Fiorina's detractors, weighing in with, "There was almost no mention of her relative lack of qualification for the CEO job. Few asked questions about her role at Lucent, which had begun its headlong fall by early 2000."
No other female CEO (and there have been only six CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to date) has elicited such strong positive and negative feedback.
No matter what either camp says about Fiorina, she is clearly poised to make history. (USA Today, February 24, 2003)
"...a good grounding in the background to the company and its key players-an interesting read..." (IT Week/www.vnunet.com, 19 March 2003)
"...a fascinating behind the scenes peek at one of the most powerful IT companies-some useful intelligence for IT managers..." (VNU Net, 19 March 2003)
"...more meaty, more colourful and generally a much more enjoyable read...the book also goes much further..." (Infoconomy, 11 April 2003)
"...riveting, colorful, fast-paced account of the Compaq battle". (New York Times Book Review, May 18, 2003)
"...This gripping, ongoing story includes fascinating personalities and dramatic boardroom and courtroom drama..." (Computer Consultant, April/May 2003)
"paints a nuanced and enlightening portrait of the leader of one of the most important high-tech companies". (The Boston Globe, June 8, 2003)
"...realistic and objective.... Backfire is definitely a must-read for investors, executives..." (The star online, 12 August 2003)