updated 10/9/2006 6:09:55 PM ET 2006-10-09T22:09:55

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina says she remains puzzled about why she was fired last year and contends two board members who were prominent in the company’s recent spying scandal likely engineered her ouster.

In her new memoir, “Tough Choices,” Fiorina says HP’s directors never made clear why they wanted her to go, and “didn’t have the courage to face me” to break the news.

“The decision to fire me — frankly I know more about what it wasn’t than what it was,” she said Monday in an interview. “It wasn’t about performance.”

HP’s stock had lost more than half its value in her 5½-year tenure. But she believed the board agreed that the Internet bust and early 2000s recession were a major factor. And she found it odd that just before firing her the board had approved her plans for 2005.

She suspects, however, that her end at HP was sought by then-directors Thomas Perkins and George Keyworth, whom she saw as counterproductive meddlers. Before her firing she had rejected acquisitions and organizational changes they had suggested.

Fiorina writes that she regrets letting Keyworth spend more time around HP to help keep him occupied after the death of his wife. She also says she erred in letting Perkins return to the board after he had been forced out when he reached mandatory retirement age.

Perkins and Keyworth turned out to be linked powerfully again after Fiorina’s ouster, when her successor as chairwoman, Patricia Dunn, ordered the now-infamous investigation into boardroom leaks to the media. Perkins quit in protest and Keyworth resigned after admitting he had talked to reporters without approval from the other directors.

Fiorina said she was “shocked” and “sad” to learn of HP investigators’ tactics, which included impersonating directors, employees and journalists to obtain their phone records. Dunn and four other people have been charged by California’s attorney general.

“I think it did lift a veil on the dysfunction that existed in the boardroom,” said Fiorina, who had also felt plagued by directors’ leaks before she was fired. “And perhaps people have some better appreciation of what I was dealing with.”

Keyworth’s attorney, Reginald Brown, declined to comment on the specifics of Fiorina’s characterization. But Brown said Keyworth always did what he thought was best for HP, which has fared substantially better on Wall Street since Fiorina left.

“Dr. Keyworth bears Ms. Fiorina no ill will,” Brown said. “The merits of his decisions as a director regarding her tenure are reflected in HP’s stock price then and now.”

Representatives for Perkins did not return calls seeking comment.

Keyworth and Perkins are not alone in receiving dings in Fiorina’s 300-page memoir, which details her rise from law school dropout and temporary typist (one stint was at Hewlett-Packard) to a rising star at AT&T Corp., its spinoff Lucent Technologies Inc. and ultimately HP.

She has few nice things to say about Dunn, claiming “her opinions were frequently hard to discern.”

She also lambastes Michael Capellas, the former CEO of Compaq Computer Corp. who left HP six months after HP narrowly won its fight to acquire Compaq for $19 billion in 2002. Fiorina depicts Capellas as moody, irrational and “more interested in his own title and position than virtually everything else.”

She acknowledged Monday that Capellas’ bonuses and other compensation elements in the Compaq deal were intentionally structured so as to encourage him to leave rather than remain as her No. 2.

“The things that were meant to happen, happened,” she said. “That was a thoughtful, deliberate, careful process.”

A spokeswoman for Capellas, now at the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, said he had not immediate comment.

Fiorina, 52, hopes the memoir helps her move on. She would consider being a CEO again “for the right company, for the right purpose,” but says no perfect opportunities have arisen.

She didn’t rule out a move into politics, which has been suggested to her for several years.

“I think public service is an honorable profession,” she said. “Both politics and business are about creating positive change.”

Of course, that path would bring more of the scrutiny that followed her as the first woman, the first outsider and the first non-engineer to run HP, a Silicon Valley institution.

Fiorina says much of the attention was unfair and led to erroneous conventional wisdom about her, such as that she was weak at day-to-day operational matters.

“I hope one of the things people take out of this book is that I’m not a caricature,” she said.

Fiorina seemed more relaxed and less defensive than she frequently did in her HP days, though the company is not far from mind. A few times, when referring to HP’s success since she left — for which she takes credit — and its current prospects, she used the word “we.” When it was pointed out to her, she nodded.

“Look, I love HP. I devoted all of myself to that company and those people, and I still have a great deal of contact with HP people, so yes, it’s a very big part of me.”

Asked to elaborate on those contacts, Fiorina said people at HP still write to her. What do they say?

“That’s between me and them.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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