Summary of Backfire

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Backfire book summary


7 Overall

7 Applicability

6 Innovation

7 Style


Peter Burrows offers insights into high level business, where personality matters more than economics, as he explores the mammoth HP-Compaq merger. Most mergers fail to make money or to produce the promised "synergies" so, he asks, why - other than ego - do CEOs pursue them? Though stylistically somewhat trite, this book successfully explores the HP Board’s decision to approve the merger, with Walter B. Hewlett’s vote in favor, and his subsequent lonely, ultimately quixotic battle against it. The most contentious issues in contemporary business are all here: shareholder rights and value vs. CEO power; employee-oriented cultures vs. "re-engineering;" corporate integrity vs. sharp practice; and the interesting spectacle of a ruthless, hard-headed female CEO pitted against a sensitive, cello-playing man. The author says Hewlett-Packard executives were told not to speak with him after he quoted merger critics in Business Week, so there is an inevitable Walter Hewlett bias. found this to be a very good read, even a must read, for corporate warriors.

In this summary, you will learn

  • About the high-profile battle over the Hewlett-Packard merger with Compaq, which pitted shareholder rights against CEO power and Carly Fiorina against Walter B. Hewlett; and
  • Who Carly Fiorina is and what she is doing at HP.

About the Author

Peter Burrows is a journalist covering technology for Business Week and department editor of Business Week’s computer coverage.



The Hewlett-Packard Culture
On August 31, 2001, Walter B. Hewlett drove to the offices of Hewlett-Packard (HP) to attend a crucial board meeting. His father, who had died only seven months before, had co-founded the company, a Silicon Valley legend. HP was known not only for its engineering...

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