Happily Ever After

Dear Miss Nuptials,

On the eve of my wedding, I’m getting the funny feeling that not everyone
is totally supportive. My shareholders have withdrawn several billion from my
stock trousseau. Cousin Walter Hewlett is fussing. Some customers say they won’t
buy our products until they’re sure the marriage will work. My employees just
can’t seem to get past the fact that thousands of them will lose their jobs–I
mean does everything always have to be about them? Ironically, my competitors
Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy and Dell Computer Founder Michael Dell have
been super-supportive. Miss Nuptials, am I just being too sensitive?

Signed, Carly Fiorina

Dear Carly,

Somehow, ever since that press conference where you and
Compaq Computer CEO Michael Capellas put on that Very Brady Bunch engagement
party, I knew I’d be hearing from you. Alas, the days are past when an
indefatigable blonde lady in an excellent pantsuit can proclaim her optimism for
merging two dysfunctional families into one big happy one and be taken
seriously. I must confess that, when I heard that loud crash, I thought the
Brady’s dog Tiger had gotten loose and was dragging Alice the housekeeper
around–but I guess it was just the sound of all that market value being

I hate to break it to you, Carly, but Las Vegas oddsmakers
believe that it’s more likely Osama bin Laden will give the commencement
address at Sarah Lawrence next June than that anything good will come of the
HP-Compaq marriage. The stats on tech mergers are worse than the divorce rate.
The majority of mergers lose value for shareholders. Have you never heard of
AT&T and NCR? Burroughs and UNIVAC? Just ask Mr Capellas about Compaq’s
ill-considered elopement with DEC. I know he assured you that it meant nothing
(men!)–but there’s a lesson there.

Miss Nuptials knows that you are frustrated, but I was
startled by that e-mail you sent HP employees defending the merger and reminding
them “until your manager tells you otherwise, stay focused.” Miss
Nuptials wonders if “otherwise” might have sounded a bit like
“until you’re asked to pack up and march briskly to the parking

On the bright side, I applaud your move in forging a truly
modern alliance, what with Compaq agreeing to take your name and all. But
really, isn’t it time you cleaned up your own company before you start
slathering other people’s problems on it like frosting on a seven-layer cake?
Miss Nuptials always urges families to respect a bride’s choices, but
announcing that you were “not surprised” when the founding families of
HP came out against this hookup was a blast of snippishness unbecoming a
well-compensated CEO. After all, we have come to that part of the ceremony when
people with a few billion on the line don’t have to hold their peace.

The heat is on, and no doubt wedding planners at Wilson
Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Goldman Sachs are busy spritzing you with
Optimism and Eau de Synergy. However, we have checked with Miss Manners on this
and declare that backing out might still be the better course. It’s not like
anyone but Michael Dell and Scott McNealy have sent gifts, and I hardly think
those silver goblets engraved with “1+1=-2” were in good taste. What’s
a few caterers’ deposits compared with marching a once-great company down the
aisle and into a sinkhole? Miss Nuptials’ advice: Bow out, check into a spa
for a refreshing makeover, and peruse the ample literature on co-dependency–in
your case starting with CEOs Who Merge Too Much.

Signed, Miss Nuptials

BusinessWeek. Copyright 2001 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc

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