Steve Poizner lashed out Thursday at Meg Whitman, his chief rival for conservative support in the battle for the Republican nomination for governor, charging that the former eBay CEO has a “disastrous record of fiscal mismanagement” in business.
Citing a Wednesday Wall Street Journal report (subscription required), Insurance Commissioner Poizner’s campaign spokesman put out a release that said eBay’s 2005 acquisition of the online telephone service Skype during Whitman’s tenure has resulted in a $2 billion loss for shareholders and left her successor to “clean up the failure.”
“If past performance is indicative of future results, Californians can’t afford Meg Whitman’s disastrous record of fiscal mismanagement,” said Poizner spokesman Kevin Spillane.
Coming 14 months before the GOP primary, the sudden attack reflected not only the aggressive style of campaigning that Poizner has adopted in the early going but also the potential vulnerability of political candidates who come directly to politics from the world of business and finance. The shot at Whitman is surely only the first that will be aimed at her management record.
“She’s making her business career the entire rationale for her candidacy,” Spillane told calbuzz. “And this is the cornerstone of her record at eBay.”
The Journal story, by Geoffrey Fowler, reported that “the online-auction giant purchased Skype in 2005 for about $2.6 billion in cash and stock, on the premise that eBay buyers would use Skype’s service to communicate. But two years later, eBay took a $1.4 billion charge for Skype, reflecting the unit’s shrinking value.”
Whitman spokesman Mitch Zak would not venture to explain why Poizner had decided to attack the former eBay CEO.
“Meg Whitman has a tremendous record of accomplishment in her decade leading eBay. She joined the company when it had 30 employees and $4 million in revenues. When she left it had 15,000 employees and $8 billion in revenues,” Zak said. “She has been recognized throughout the world as one of the most impressive and accomplished business leaders,” he said.
The salvo against Whitman recalled the troubles that faced former Northwest Airlines Chairman Al Checchi in 1998 when he attempted to use his business acumen as the fundamental rationale for his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor. News articles and research by competing candidates delving into his tumultuous leadership of the airline undercut the central argument for his candidacy.
The Poizner statement also took on former Skype President Henry Gomez, now a key Whitman adviser, calling him “her campaign majordomo.” Through his spokesman Poizner said that current eBay chairman John Donahoe is “now cleaning up the failure” of Whitman and Gomez.
Zak elected not to reply to any of the charges.
“Meg doesn’t need to do anything more than share her vision for California and demonstrate that she’s not a Sacramento politician but a leader who will bring this state back,” he said.