back to article HP deployed 'Truth Squad' in post-Autonomy PR blitz to defend Meg Whitman

HP furiously lobbied key British government ministers in late 2012 as part of a desperate effort to "preserve the credibility" of CEO Meg Whitman after its $8.8bn writedown of Autonomy – including direct phone calls to the then-UK Prime Minister David Cameron, London's High Court learned this morning. The writedown was seen as …

  1. Natalie Gritpants Jr Silver badge

    "defend the board from attacks"

    And there was me thinking that the purpose of a board was to oversee the company and prevent it from making blunders.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: "defend the board from attacks"

      And non-execs to hold the board to account.

    2. lglethal Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: "defend the board from attacks"

      Ahh see thats where you got it wrong. The boards job is to approve pay rises and golden parachutes for the C-level suite. The C-level suite's job is to approve pay rises for the Board and maintain share prices at high levels so that board can profit. Everyone below C-level is unimportant and can be thrown under the bus if it keeps the share price high.

      Any oversight that might occur is purely coincidental...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "defend the board from attacks"

      "And there was me thinking that the purpose of a board was to oversee the company and prevent it from making blunders."

      This is HP - have you not seen the majority of their boardroom strategies in the last 10-15 years?

      My guess was that HP's board was preparing a new product for the automobile safety industry...

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    Caveat emptor

    What is clear, whether or not the figures were massagedis that due diligence wss not a pary of HP's purchase plan.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From the inset panel:

    In 2011, HP bought Autonomy – a maker of software to keep track of unstructured data, founded by Mike Lynch in the UK – for $11bn.

    Sorry, but no "maker of software" could ever be worth $11bn. $11mn would be a stretch.

    caveat emptor and all that. If HP were stupid enough to believe any "maker of software" could be worth that much, then I have a few bridges going begging.

    Where are they hoping to get their damages from ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From the inset panel:

      27 March, company values according to Google

      Microsoft: $US 896 B

      SAP: $US 124 B

      Oracle: $US 180 B

      IBM: $123 B

      Now I know Oracle & IBM have a substantial non-software business, but all worth much more than 11 Bn. And there's probably a few hundred others but my beer has almost finished chillin' and I have no gamblin' money for shares to worry about this stuff.

      Whether any of the above are worth their valuations is another story..,.

      1. Nick Kew

        Re: From the inset panel:

        Funnily enough, the current market cap of HPE's current owner (Micro Focus) is UK£8.25bn, which is in a rather similar ballpark to that $11bn.

        Of course, Micro Focus is also the home of many other formerly-big names in software. Recycling the moribund, one might say. And, generally speaking, making good money out of it. Certainly a profitable holding in my pension pot.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: From the inset panel:

          Micro Focus doesn't own HPE. What we own is the software division HPE spun off. It includes former Autonomy and a lot of other stuff (former Vertica, ArcSight, Fortify, LoadRunner, ITOM, ...).

          And yeah, it turns out that if you keep maintaining and enhancing enterprise software products with a large installed base, there's money to be made.

    2. gbshore

      Re: From the inset panel:

      Ok... no software company worth $11m? Now you sound like an idiot....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: you sound like an idiot.

        Hmmm

        I think the poster was noting that the chances of a software company that wasn't IBM/Google/Oracle sort of turning up in the "miscellaneous" section of the "companies for sale" world was getting smaller as you go down the list. It's not that there aren't - or could not be - software companies that big. Just that the chances of Autonomy being one were small enough that some serious due diligence was needed.

        If I buy something for £1, I can be excused not investing much in checking it out. If I buy something for £1,000,000 I'd want it's DNA too ....

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: From the inset panel:

        I thought he was grousing about British "billion" versus US "billion". But who knows?

        1. MJB7
          Headmaster

          Re: British Billion

          It hasn't been a "British Billion" for 50 years now. My father avoided using "billion" because of the possible confusion, I have always used billion as 10**9 (although aware of the older meaning). I won't see 60 again.

          (Icon: because it is contemperaneous with "billion" equalling 10**12.)

  4. Speltier

    I don't get it

    Why defend "eBay was my one trick pony" Whitman? Autonomy wasn't her idea, just throw "Francis Aaron 85" Apothecker under the bus (again). The main reason the 8.8B was grotesque was that the writedown should not have happened if anyone had done proper due diligence... Whitman only needs a truth squad to spin out reasons why she did not clean house thoroughly.

  5. Ima Ballsy
    Coat

    Hey ....

    I've just written a software package that can make the blind see, the lame to walk, cure arthritis, and alleviate ED ...

    I'll take my 11Bn HPE .......

  6. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Aggressively work with reporters to breakdown and explain complex aspects of the write-down news

    Was it something like this:

    1. Meg Whitman signed off on a $11b purchase without knowing what to do with it or what it was for.

    2. Unfortunately no-one else at HP had a clue either.

    3. HP paid at least $8.8b too much. And that's being conservative.

    4. ...panic..

    Have I missed anything?

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Aggressively work with reporters to breakdown and explain complex aspects of the write-down news

      Ummm, duuuuuurrrr... nope, I think you have it pretty much spot on.

    2. John H Woods

      Re: "Have I missed anything?"

      5. Create a propaganda department to minimize the impact of 1, 2 and 3.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aggressively work with reporters to breakdown and explain complex aspects of the write-down news

      Small correction:

      1. Leo Apotheker signed off on a $11b purchase without knowing what to do with it or what it was for.

      Meg signed off the write down where Autonomy lost ~7%% of its purchase value, the PR blitz and the "we were miss-led by Autonomy fraud" line

      1. MJB7
        Boffin

        Re: Small correction

        Nope. Meg was a member of the board at the time and signed off on the Autonomy acquisition.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too much leader, not enough crowd.

    Let's see...

    Mark Hurd's sudden departure cost HP 9 Billion in market value in just three days.

    Leo Apotheker's purchase of Autonomy cost HP 8 Billion.

    While on the other hand, as soon as Carly Fiorina was dispatched, HP's market value rose 3 Billion.

    ...I guess HPE just needs to find another 6 more Carly's to fire, to get back ahead.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Too much leader, not enough crowd.

      Or fire Carly six more times. Some people would find that quite cathartic.

  8. David Neil

    Truth Squad

    There is something very creepy about that term

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: Truth Squad

      You beat me to it with that comment.

      Mildly surprising that a phrase quite so nakedly Orwellian was ever allowed. Maybe a cultural thing: in Blighty I expect they'd be a bit more circumspect about a propaganda team.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Truth Squad

        " in Blighty I expect they'd be a bit more circumspect about a propaganda team."

        You mean The Nudge Unit?

      2. Julz

        Re: Truth Squad

        Just call in Prentiss McCabe...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: Truth Squad

        The Bottom Inspectors

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Truth Squad

      Yeah, like The Happiness Patrol.

  9. silks

    The HP Way

    Not exactly exhibiting "The HP Way". RIP

  10. gbshore

    I cannot believe some of the absurd and ridiculous comments on here... try to learn and understand something before you make absurd comparisons that have no relation to what’s going on... you show your lack of base intelligence.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      "...I cannot believe some of the absurd and ridiculous comments on here... try to learn and understand something before you make absurd comparisons that have no relation to what’s going on... you show your lack of base intelligence..."

      Notwithstanding the aggressiveness in that comment, one could ask "why"?

      I mean...it doesn't seem to have factored into HP's decision to buy this company without proper due diligence, and against the express advice of the then CFO.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      ^ Is that a post from the 'Truth Squad'?

    3. IHateWearingATie

      "I cannot believe some of the absurd and ridiculous comments on here"

      Clearly you're not someone who visits here often....

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: absurd comparisons

      Speaking of absurd comparisons that have no relation to what’s going on. .. here's one gbshore prepared earlier:

      "I just spent a week in London... you folks have your own problems... also watched House of Commons debate last week. They waynyou all speak to each other is interesting. I think you are the last to take pot shots at our President... worry about your own Country, politics and problems... adios Register ... what a bunch of ASSWIPES..."

      It's interesting in a way, but not in the same class as aMfM used to be.

  11. James 51
    Big Brother

    Aggressively work with reporters to breakdown and explain complex aspects of the write-down news

    Antyone else read that as aggressively breakdown reporters?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Call me Aardvark

    All this hot air from Mike and Sushovan's teams is all well and good but as far as I know publicity, damage limitation and spin are not illegal.

    Maybe it shouldn't be HP taking those two to court. Maybe it should be every VAR they shafted, every partner they ditched on a whim or every incredibly bright, talented and eager graduate they chewed up and spat out only to leave them wandering the employment market in a daze wondering 'Is the workplace always this bad?'.

    I for one am happy to see them have their time in court.

    AC cos ex A.

  13. Dominic C

    "Apotheker having been replaced with Whitman, the new CEO was being forced to defend something that wasn’t her idea"

    This may be true, but the deal was certainly not signed when she joined. She still had the option to pull out and, considering the fact that it was clear to everybody who had even a remote knowledge of the industry that 10 billion was far too much to pay for such a little known company, she is also responsible for this fiasco.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      With great power comes great responsibility (in theory)

      "She still had the option to change direction, and considering the fact that it was clear to everybody who had even a remote knowledge of the subject that the whole thing was not going to end well, she is also responsible for this fiasco."

      I changed the wording ever so slightly, but the meaning ought to be basically the same.

      Anyone here familiar with the "sunk costs fallacy"? e.g. "we've put so much time and effort into this, we have to finish it off, even if it kills the organisation".

      May be relevant elsewhere at the moment too.

      1. RancidOrange

        Re: With great power comes great responsibility (in theory)

        Richard Dawkins: The concord fallacy

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