Fiorina Comments On Public Firing

Tells Lesley Stahl She Never Saw It Coming

The board backed the deal 100 percent. But merging with the more trendy, edgy Compaq was seen by some insiders as an attempt to kill off the old "HP way." It didn't help that she had made herself the face of the company or that she had starred in a commercial in front of the old sacred garage.

Thinking about the commercials, Fiorina says, "I mean, if I had it to do over, I probably wouldn't have gone into those commercials because I think it made me perhaps even more of a target."

It couldn't have helped with the founding families, the Hewletts and the Packards. They turned against the merger with Compaq, and against her.

"The families took out an ad at one point and they said that you were incompetent, unethical, unfit," Stahl remarks.

"Oh look. I think the fight got very ugly. Very ugly things were said about me," Fiorina says. "And my job was to set that aside and get done what I had to get done."

Asked if she was able to put those difficulties aside, Fiorina says, "Except when I came home at night. You know, you have to have a safe place you come home to."

That safe place was home with her husband Frank Fiorina. Four years earlier, when he was 49 and a vice president at AT&T where they had met, he retired, in order to support her career.

Frank says he never asked his wife, "Why don't you retire," because it would have been "futile, and it would have been a waste of time."

"That was not in the cards?" Stahl asks.

"No," he says.

What Frank did was watch her back by attending board functions and senior leader meetings, and he would tell her the unvarnished truth. He was at her side at the brutal proxy fight against the merger with Compaq that lasted eight months, including a lawsuit to try and stop it. Carly had to testify.

But in the end, the shareholders approved the deal and she threw herself into marrying the two huge companies. With that came tough decisions, like laying off 23,000 people. Grumbling about her intensified: that she spent too much time hobnobbing with movie and rock stars, which she says was part of her campaign to appeal to a younger market. And there were complaints that she was weak at the day-to-day operations.

"Do you acknowledge that you weren't running the nuts and bolts?" Stahl asks.

"No, I won't acknowledge that," Fiorina replies. "I absolutely won't acknowledge that. I was running the nuts and bolts of this company along with a lot of other people."

"But, do you acknowledge that the board felt you weren't?" Stahl asks.

"No, that's not factual," Fiorina says.

Yet early last year - three members of the board approached her with a proposal to restructure the company in a way that, in part, would've stripped her of some of her day-to-day responsibilities. Then someone leaked the plan to the Wall Street Journal.

Furious, Fiorina called a conference call with the board, and by her own account in her book, was cold as ice.

"I was very, very distressed," Fiorina recalls. "But as I also say in the book: when I get very angry, I get very quiet."

Asked if she scolded the board or talked down to them, Fiorina says, "I didn't talk down to them, but I was plain in saying: 'This is unacceptable behavior.' A line had been crossed, and when no one would fess up, I said, 'We have to have an investigation.'"

Fiorina wanted a leak investigation, since no one would admit that they had talked to the press.

She says her investigation didn't use pre-texting or any other controversial tactics, but it didn't find the original leaker, though Tom Perkins admitted he was a second source who confirmed the story for the Wall Street Journal. At the next board meeting, Carly says she intended to clear the air and move forward. But when she showed up, she was fired - effective immediately and Pattie Dunn was elected chairman of the board.

"In the book you said, 'The board did not have the courage to face me. They did not thank me. They did not say goodbye.' Do you think it was nasty? Mean? Meant to hurt?" Stahl asks.

"I think the way this was handled was heartless in some ways and disrespectful in other ways," Fiorina replies.

"Almost as if they meant to take you down a peg or two, that kind of thing," Stahl asks.

"Well, if that was there intent, they certainly succeeded in that. Maybe they took great pleasure in seeing me beat up publicly for weeks and weeks and weeks. I don't know," Fiorina says.