Pfeiffer lashes out at Compaq board

Ousted as chief executive four days ago, Eckhard Pfeiffer lashed out at Compaq Computer Corp. Wednesday, saying the computer maker's board "should hang its head in shame".
Written by Charles Cooper, Contributor

A sober, buttoned-down executive, Pfeiffer is not known for making public displays of emotion. But in a CNN television interview, he lashed out at his former employer.

Pfeiffer said that "lots of people" have since told him he had done "a great job" during his eight-year tenure at the computer maker. Speaking publicly for the first time since Compaq's board showed him the door, Pfeiffer added that feedback "from other people is that the Compaq board should hang its head in shame."

Handsome Silicon Valley severance packages are worded so as to limit former top executives from criticising their old companies. However, Pfeiffer's decision to speak out echoes the verbal rehabilitation campaign launched by Gil Amelio almost immediately after his dismissal as Apple's chief executive in June 1997.

Earlier Wednesday, Compaq reported first-quarter profits of $281m (£171m) that were line with the sharply reduced outlook that the company disclosed two weeks ago to Wall Street. Net income after taxes was 16 cents per share -- compared with the 1 cent per share it posted in the same quarter of 1998.

A Compaq spokesman was not available for comment.

In the days following his dismissal, reports have circulated quoting former Compaq officials -- some on, others off the record -- criticising Pfeiffer's administration. And in an interview, Compaq Chairman Ben Rosen said he had been concerned for nearly two years that the company was not fulfilling its potential.

But Pfeiffer criticized the board, saying it had "contacted the wrong sources". He waved aside "quotes that came from dismissed Compaq executives" as part of a process he derided as replete with "a lot of behind-the-back discussions. I would have expected some more openness". Pfeiffer also took issue with critics who said Compaq had failed to better integrate past acquisitions of Tandem Computer and Digital Equipment Corp. He said the board did not understand the amount of work that accompanies the integration of more than 50,000 new employees. At least one analyst agreed that Compaq would need more time to digest its acquisitions. The board "didn't understand how long it takes to put this together," commented Andrew M. Seybold, an analyst at the Outlook newsletter in America.

Michael Fitzgerald contributed to this report

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