Jodie Fisher's Peculiar Relationship With Hewlett-Packard

Jodie Fisher has used up about 10 of her 15 minutes of fame for her role in the downfall of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) CEO Mark Hurd. Many questions in this sordid tale remain unanswered that should disturb investors.

First, why was the 50-year-old actress, whose "body" of work features films that were light on plot and heavy on nudity, hired by the number one PC maker? Fisher's statement, released through her attorney, Gloria Allred, says "At HP, I was under contract to work at high-level customer and executive summit events held around the country and abroad."

That's vague. The explanation published by Bloomberg News was even more perplexing saying her job "was to organize forums for CEOs and chief information officers that gave customers access to Hurd and other HP executives. She would gather background information on invitees and introduce executives to one another."

Fuzzy Resume

Huh? Aren't there scores of people on the HP sales staff whose job it is to know the technological needs and wants of the CEO and senior management? Maybe there are tech savvy consultants who can help HP land big tech deals, but Fisher is not one of them. Her resume -- at least what has been disclosed by Allred -- is fuzzy speaking of her recent job as a "vice president of a commercial real estate firm" and her work as a "successful salesperson for a Fortune 500 company."

Wall Street loved Hurd as much as it hated his predecessor Carly Fiorina, who is now running for the U.S. Senate from California. At least for a while. HP's shares are up more than 70% over the past five years but have dropped almost 17% this year. Yesterday, HP announced preliminary third quarter revenue of $30.7 billion up 11% compared with the prior-year period. GAAP diluted earnings per share were approximately 75 cents and $1.08 on a non-GAAP basis. How much Hurd deserves credit for is hard to say.

Layoffs at HP

But employees may not have liked him as much. In HP's case, when corporate cultures revolve around cost cutting, resentment among lower-level employees quickly builds, especially at a Chief Executive such as Hurd who earned a whopping $30 million last year. Back in 2005, Hurd announced a plan to cut more than 14,000 workers, or about 10% of HP's work force at the time. Then, last year during the recession, the company announced plans to cut another 6,000 jobs and instituted companywide pay cuts.

On top of that, Hurd reportedly submitted inaccurate expense reports related to Fisher totaling about $20,000. Now, with an exit package worth a reported $37 million, he can afford to pay it back. Fisher can use the undisclosed settlement she received from Hurd to jump-start her acting career or pay her attorney, Allred.

Sometimes companies take years to recover from scandals. Harry Stonecipher was ousted as the CEO of Boeing (BA) in 2005 after it was revealed that he had an affair with a female subordinate. The plane maker has been in a tailspin ever since because of numerous delays with the 787 Dreamliner. That's why HP will need to pick a new CEO very carefully.


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