AT HP,ANOTHER WOMAN INTO THE SPOTLIGHT ?
AT HP,ANOTHER WOMAN INTO THE SPOTLIGHT ?
2005-02-17 at 1:16:00 pm #10320
<>At HP, Another Woman Moves Into the Spotlight
another woman executive is now in the spotlight.
Like Carleton S. Fiorina, she is known as a smart strategic
thinker, a brilliant communicator, and an effective saleswoman.
Yet the executive, Patricia C. Dunn, who has taken over as
chairwoman with the ouster of Ms. Fiorina, has shunned the role of celebrity as
much as Ms. Fiorina sought it out.
“Carly is interested in being outfront and in the
limelight, and Pattie is not that person,” said Lewis E. Platt, who recruited
both Ms. Dunn as a director and Ms. Fiorina to succeed him when he stepped down
as Hewlett’s chairman and chief executive in 1999. Ms. Dunn “is quite happy to
get the job done without the spotlight on her,” he said.
Ms. Dunn no longer has a choice. In the announcement of
Wednesday’s shake-up, she was the Hewlett-Packard director who was front and
center, explaining on a conference call to industry analysts and investors the
company’s new direction. “This is not a change related to strategy,” she said.
“This is a change based on a desire to accelerate that strategy. We think that
requires hands-on execution.”
She repeatedly referred to the need for a hands-on leader –
a description that others have used to describe her. Ms. Dunn, 53, is known for
her ability to connect with people and persuade them with big ideas.
As the head of Barclays Global Investors, the British
bank’s asset management arm with over $900 billion invested, she pressed
executives to let her division move into the exchange-traded funds business in
1999. It was a somewhat risky move but it has since greatly improved the
company’s bottom line.
“She’s a good salesperson, but also in B.G.I. fashion, she
did thorough analysis,” said Thomas Taggart, a Barclays Global managing director
and spokesman. “But it was her courage and sales skills that allowed us to jump
into that business.”
The challenge for Ms. Dunn now is to lead the board in
selecting a new chief executive and deciding how to improve profitability. While
the change at the top may have improved morale, the company faces difficult
choices amid a cutthroat personal computer market.
Ms. Dunn has had experience in managing pressures. She
successfully juggled the ambitions of Barclays, and kept its employees happy,
while at the same time pleasing its corporate parent in London, said Matthew R.
Barger, deputy chairman at Hellman & Friedman, a private equity firm based
in San Francisco.
While Ms. Dunn voted for the $19 billion acquisition of
Compaq Computer in 2002 as a Hewlett board member, at Barclays she resisted
efforts to integrate her unit more closely with the British parent, a person
with direct knowledge of the situation said. “She simply wouldn’t have it
because she didn’t want to be told what to do by a bunch of guys in London,”
this person said.
Colleagues describe both Ms. Fiorina and Ms. Dunn as
charming and outgoing; both women never lacked doubts or confidence. But while
Ms. Fiorina, 50, is charismatic, Ms. Dunn is seen as caring and aware of her
“Neither of them is pretty strong at execution, but Pattie
surrounded herself with good executors; she hired people who were skilled at
looking at the details and managing the execution,” said Richard Hag-berg, the
chairman of Hagberg Consulting, who advised Ms. Fiorina at Hewlett and Ms. Dunn
at Barclays. “That is one of the areas where Carly fell short.”
Ms. Dunn joined Hewlett’s board in 1998, a year before Ms.
Fiorina arrived, and was recruited to help the board better understand the needs
of the large customers the company wanted to land. Even without a technology
background, Mr. Platt said, she was a quick study and within two board meetings
played an active role in shaping Hewlett’s strategy.
“I was always impressed that she caught on to the markets
that we were in and products and services we were developing,” Mr. Platt said,
recalling the discussion over whether or not to spin off Agilent Technology.
“She would ask fairly tough questions about strategy that would cause you to
stop and think, and sometimes rethink the strategy.”
During the board’s heated battle over whether to merge with
Compaq, she said at the time that she was skeptical about whether Hewlett could
come up with an effective integration plan. Ms. Dunn was sold on the deal only
after she saw how both Hewlett and Compaq executives were planning for the
“It’s been: make tough decisions, make clear which way we
are going, and then get on with it,” she said in an interview with The
Associated Press. “I think they can pull it off.”
And more recently Ms. Dunn was one of three longtime
Hewlett directors who confronted Ms. Fiorina in early January with a four-page
document outlining how she and the company must change.
People who have worked with Ms. Dunn say she is patient,
low key and a good listener. “She’s always been one of those people that is very
good at synthesizing the issues to their essential elements,” said Pat McGurn,
chief counsel at Institutional Shareholder Services, an investor advisory firm
in Rockville, Md., that counts Barclays as a customer. Barclays is the
third-largest investor in Hewlett, with a 4 percent stake. “She’s typically in a
role of listening more than talking. You meet a lot of good speakers in this
business, but it’s also nice to see people who listen and think.”
The daughter of a vaudeville actor and Las Vegas showgirl,
Ms. Dunn attended the University of California, Berkley. After graduating with a
degree in journalism and economics, she had ambitions to be a foreign
correspondent. But when her mother became sick, she took a job as a temporary
secretary in Wells Fargo’s asset management division in 1976.
Nearly 20 years later, she rose through the ranks of that
group to become its chairman and chief executive, all the while raising four
stepchildren, who are now grown.
These days, however, Ms. Dunn’s day-to-day involvement at
Barclays seems to have slowed. In 2002, she stepped down as chairwoman as she
battled breast cancer and melanoma; she is now a Barclay’s vice chairwoman.
Friends and colleagues say her health has improved, and Ms. Dunn and her husband
have been spending a lot of time at a winery they own in Australia.
“She is not part of the San Francisco social scene,” Mr.
Barger said. And though she ranked 10 places behind the top-ranked Ms. Fiorina
among Fortune’s list of powerful businesswomen, Ms. Dunn has said it takes a lot
for her to be recognized in even a local publication.
“I would have to jump off a building naked to get any
coverage in The San Francisco Chronicle,” Ms. Dunn told The Financial Times in
1999. “And it wouldn’t be because I am a fund manager. It would be: Stupid Lady
Jumps Off a Building.”
That headline might read differently now.