Margaret Cushing “Meg” Whitman (born August 4, 1956) is an American business executive and political activist and donor. Whitman is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
A native of Cold Spring Harbor, a hamlet of Huntington, New York, Whitman is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School. Whitman served as an executive in The Walt Disney Company, where she was Vice President of Strategic Planning throughout the 1980s. In the 1990s, she served as an executive for DreamWorks, Procter & Gamble, and Hasbro.
Whitman served as President and Chief Executive Officer of eBay, from 1998 to 2008. During Whitman’s 10 years with the company, she oversaw its expansion from 30 employees and $4 million in annual revenue, to more than 15,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue. In 2014, Whitman was named 20th in Forbes List of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World.
In 2008, Whitman was cited by The New York Times as among the women most likely to become the first female President of the United States. In February 2009, Whitman announced her candidacy for Governor of California, becoming the third woman in a 20-year period to run for the office. Whitman won the Republican primary in June 2010. The fourth-wealthiest woman in the state of California with a net worth of $1.3 billion in 2010, she spent more of her own money on the race than any other political candidate spent on a single election in American history, spending $144 million of her own fortune and $178.5 million in total, including money from donors. Whitman was defeated by Democratic former Governor Jerry Brown in the 2010 California gubernatorial election by 54% to 41%.
Early life and education
Whitman was born in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, the daughter of Margaret Cushing (née Goodhue) and Hendricks Hallett Whitman, Jr. Her patrilineal great-great-great-grandfather, Elnathan Whitman, was a member of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly. Through her father, Whitman is also a great-great-granddaughter of U.S. Senator Charles B. Farwell, of Illinois. On her mother’s side, she is a great-granddaughter of historian and jurist Munroe Smith and a great-great-granddaughter of General Henry S. Huidekoper. Her paternal grandmother, born Adeladie Chatfield-Taylor, was the daughter of writer Hobart Chatfield-Taylor and the sister of economist Wayne Chatfield-Taylor.
Whitman attended Cold Spring Harbor High School in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, graduating after three years in 1974. In her memoirs, she says she was in the top 10 of her class. She wanted to be a doctor, so she studied math and science at Princeton University. However, after spending a summer selling advertisements for a magazine, she changed over to the study of economics, earning a B.A. with honors in 1977. Whitman then obtained an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1979.
Whitman is married to Griffith Harsh IV, a neurosurgeon at Stanford University Medical Center. They have two sons. She has lived in Atherton, California, since March 1998.Whitman College, a residential college completed in 2007 at Princeton University, was named for Meg Whitman following her $30 million donation.
Beginning her career in 1979 as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio. Whitman later moved on to work as a consultant at Bain & Company‘s San Francisco office. She then rose through the ranks to achieve the position of senior vice president.
Whitman became vice president of strategic planning at The Walt Disney Company in 1989. Two years later she joined the Stride Rite Corporation, before becoming president and CEO of Florists’ Transworld Delivery in 1995.
As Hasbro‘s Playskool Division General Manager, she oversaw global management and marketing of two children’s brands, Playskool and Mr. Potato Head starting in January 1997. She also imported the UK’s children’s television show Teletubbies into the U.S.
Whitman joined eBay on March 1998, when it had 30 employees and revenues of approximately $4 million. During her time as CEO, the company grew to approximately 15,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue by 2008. Originally, when Whitman had joined eBay, she found the website as a simple black and white webpage with courier font. On her first day, the site crashed for eight hours. She believed the site to be confusing and began by building a new executive team. Whitman organized the company by splitting it into twenty-three business categories. She then assigned executives to each, including some 35,000 subcategories. In 2004, Whitman made several key changes in her management team. Jeff Jordan took over PayPal, Matt Bannick took control of international operations and Bill Cobb was placed in control of U.S. operations, which has the colorful U.S. logo, while each international site has unique branding.
Whitman picked John J. Donahoe for eBay in March 2005 as President of eBay Marketplaces, responsible for all elements of eBay’s global ecommerce businesses.
During Whitman’s tenure as CEO, eBay completed the purchase of Skype for $4.1B in cash and stock in September 2005. eBay later admitted that it had overpaid and, in 2009, eBay sold Skype to a group of investors led by Silver Lake Partners at a valuation of $2.75B. In 2011, after the first papers were filed for a possible IPO, Microsoft purchased Skype for US$8.5B.
In June 2007, while preparing for an interview with Reuters, Whitman allegedly shoved her subordinate, communications employee Young Mi Kim. Of the incident, Whitman related, “In any high-pressure working environment, tensions can surface.” Kim also stated, “Yes, we had an unfortunate incident, but we resolved it in a way that speaks well for her and for eBay.” The matter was resolved after a $200,000 settlement.
Whitman resigned as CEO of eBay in November 2007, but remained on the board and served as an advisor to new CEO John Donahoe until late 2008. She was inducted into the U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2008. “I’ve said for some time that 10 years is roughly the right time to stay at the helm at a company like ours”, she said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, adding that “it’s time for new leadership, a new perspective and a new vision.”
Whitman has received numerous awards and accolades for her work at eBay. On more than one occasion, she was named among the top five most powerful women by Fortune magazine.Harvard Business Review named her the eighth-best-performing CEO of the past decade and the Financial Times named her as one of the 50 faces that shaped the decade.
Whitman also served on the board of directors of the eBay Foundation, Summit Public Schools, Procter & Gamble and DreamWorks SKG, until early 2009. She was appointed to the board of Goldman Sachs in October 2001 and then resigned in December 2002, amidst controversy that she had received shares in several public offerings managed by Goldman Sachs, although she denied any wrongdoing. (see Ties to Goldman Sachs for further detail). In March 2011, she was appointed a part-time special adviser at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
In January 2011, Whitman joined Hewlett-Packard‘s board of directors. She was named CEO on September 22, 2011. As well as renewing focus on HPs Research & Development division, Whitmans major decision during her first year as CEO has been to retain and recommit the firm to the PC business that her predecessor announced he was considering discarding.
In May 2013, Bloomberg L.P. named Whitman “Most Underachieving CEO” along with Apple’s CEO Tim Cook (ranked 12) and IBM’s Virginia Rometty (ranked 10) — whose stocks have all turned in the worst numbers relative to the broader market since the beginning of each CEO’s tenure. HP’s stock led the list by underperforming by 30 percentage points since Whitman took the job.
On July 26, 2017, Whitman stepped down as Chairwoman of HP Inc.’s board of directors, while remaining as CEO of HPE. Whitman fought off further rumours around her position at HPE, where she was quoted by the NY Times “So let me make this as clear as I can. I am fully committed to HPE and plan to remain the companys C.E.O. We have a lot of work still to do at HPE and I am not going anywhere”
Whitman founded a charitable foundation with husband Harsh on December 21, 2006, by donating to it 300,000 shares of eBay stock worth $9.4 million. By the end of its first year of operation, the Griffith R. Harsh IV and Margaret C Whitman Charitable Foundation had $46 million in assets and has disbursed $125,000 to charitable causes. Most of the money disbursed went to the Environmental Defense Fund. In 2010, Warren Buffett asked Whitman to join the Giving Pledge in which billionaires would commit to donating half of their money to charity, and Whitman declined. In 2011, the foundation donated $2.5 million to Summit Public Schools, which operates several charter schools in the San Jose area.
Presidential endorsements and fundraising
Whitman was a supporter of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2008 and was on his national finance team. She was also listed as finance co-chair of Romney’s exploratory committee. After Romney stepped out of the race and endorsed John McCain, Whitman joined McCain’s presidential campaign as a national co-chair. McCain mentioned Whitman as a possible Secretary of the Treasury during the second presidential debate in 2008, but lost the election to Barack Obama.
During the 2012 Republican primaries, Whitman endorsed Mitt Romney, who praised her. Whitman’s name was mentioned as a possible cabinet member in a Romney administration before he lost to Obama.
During the 2016 Republican primaries, Whitman was finance co-chair of Chris Christie’s presidential campaign. After Christie withdrew from the race and subsequently endorsed Donald Trump, Whitman criticized it as “an astonishing display of political opportunism” and called on other Christie donors to reject Trump, whom she compared to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. In August, Whitman endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign, stating that to vote for Trump “out of party loyalty alone would be to endorse a candidacy that I believe has exploited anger, grievance, xenophobia and racial division”. Acknowledging policy differences with Clinton, Whitman nonetheless praised her “temperament, global experience and commitment to Americas bedrock national values”. She called on all Republicans “to put country first before party” and added that she would support the campaign financially.
2010 campaign for California Governor
On February 10, 2009, Whitman announced she would run for governor of California in the 2010 election. Her campaign was largely self-funded. She spent more of her own money on this effort than any other self-funded political candidate in U.S. history and ultimately lost to Jerry Brown.
According to final reports, Whitman spent $144 million from her own personal funds.The Daily Caller said that her “penchant for throwing money around is well known in California political circles”. The comment came in connection with the disclosure that her campaign had paid far above market rates for advertising on a conservative political blog. The blog’s founder, addressing the issue of a possible attempt to influence the blog’s content, said he had made clear to the Whitman campaign that “advertising and editorial are two very different things”.
In June 2010, Whitman released a political ad, “A Lifetime in Politics A Legacy of Failure”, which seemingly contained one image of the FAIL Blog website, making it appear in the ad as if Jerry Brown had been the subject of one of the website’s namesake “fails”. Ben Huh, founder of the Cheezburger Network, of which failblog.org is a part, demanded an apology and the removal of the video, stating that the image was faked, and that the website is non-partisan and has never endorsed a particular political candidate or party.
On November 2, 2010, at 11:35 pm, Whitman conceded the election to her opponent, Jerry Brown, stating “We’ve come up a little short.”
In 2010, The Sacramento Bee reported that Whitman did not vote for 28 years, after reviewing her voting records in California. Whitman has described her voting record as “inexcusable”, apologized for it, and stated that she is happy to discuss the matter. Whitman answered questions about her record in September, replying, “And I think the reason is, is for many years, I wasn’t as engaged in the political process and should have been.”
In September 2010, Nicky Diaz Santillan revealed that she was employed in the Whitman household as a housekeeper and nanny from 20002009 despite her status as an illegal worker. Whitman’s campaign released documents which she says Santillan provided prior to her employment including a driver’s license, social security ID, and application. Santillan says Whitman knew she was undocumented, producing a 2003 letter from the Social Security Administration stating that her Social Security number did not match her name. Whitman initially stated that they “never received those letters”, however, after a hand-written note on the document was shown, believed to be from Whitman’s husband, they acknowledged they may have received it, but forgot. Santillan’s attorney, Gloria Allred, states that Santillan was fired for the sake of the campaign. Whitman’s campaign maintains that this is a political attack, stating that Allred is a Jerry Brown supporter. Brown, Allred and Santillan all deny this. Crystal Williams, Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association stated “Not only is accepting the documents all the law required to do, but there’s a counterbalancing anti-discrimination law that keeps her from probing further or demanding different documents.” Others disagree; immigration lawyer Greg Siskind states Whitman was the employer, and the documents by law needed to be signed by her but were not, nor did they have a social security number on them; the Fort Worth Star-Telegram noted that Whitman “hired her, paid her and had direct contact with her for nine years”, so should have known her legal status. The L.A. Times noted that Latino voters were more likely interested that Whitman treated Santillan “like a piece of garbage” when the maid asked for help finding an immigration attorney, and Whitman allegedly stated “you don’t know me and I don’t know you”.
Ties to Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs, whose executives donated $100,000 to the Whitman campaign, manages a part of Whitman’s fortune. As CEO of eBay, Whitman earned approximately $1.78 million resulting from a practice known as spinning whereby executives who did business with Goldman Sachs could reap profits by getting early deals before the public on hot IPOs offered by the bank. Whitman later resigned from the Goldman Sachs board after some expressed concern over her receiving shares from Goldman. In commenting on Whitmans resignation from the Goldman board, eBay spokesman Henry Gomez told the Wall Street Journal at the time that, “If we wanted to use Goldman’s services, she doesn’t want there to be even the slightest perception of any conflict. She’s doing this because she thinks quite highly of the firm.” While Whitman was on Goldmans board, she served on the compensation committee, which approved multimillion-dollar bonus packages for then-CEO Henry Paulson and his top aides. Public domain documents reveal that Whitman has a multimillion-dollar stake in 21 investment funds managed by Goldman. Given Goldman’s major investments in California state finances, all these ties to Goldman Sachs led to considerable controversy during the gubernatorial campaign. In response, Whitman vowed to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest, and publicly stated that she would immediately sell her Goldman stock and put her Goldman-managed investments in a blind trust if elected governor.
While running for governor, Whitman emphasized three major areas: job creation, reduced state government spending, and reform of the state’s K-12 educational system. She argued that it is best to start only a few things and finish them, instead of starting a lot of things and finishing few of them.
Whitman said that if elected, on her first day she would have suspended AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, for a year to study its potential economic implications. AB32 requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020. At the state GOP Convention in March 2010, Whitman described California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s climate change bill as a “job-killer”. Whitman opposed Proposition 23, which would delay the global warming law AB32 until California’s unemployment falls to 5.5 percent and stays there for a year, stating that the proposition did not reasonably balance the need to protect jobs with the need to preserve environment.
On water issues, Whitman opposed further restrictions on water supply in the Central Valley, and she suggested that President Obama should overturn a federal judge’s ruling under provisions in the Endangered Species Act which reduced water supplies another 5% to 7%.
Whitman said that Arizona‘s approach to illegal immigration with Arizona SB 1070 is wrong and that there are better ways to solve the problem. She said that, if she had lived in California in 1994, she would have voted against Proposition 187 concerning illegal immigrants. In an op-ed during her gubernatorial campaign, Whitman wrote, “Clearly, when examining our positions on immigration, there is very little over which Jerry Brown and I disagree”.
She stated that illegal immigrant students should be prohibited from attending state-funded institutions of higher education. Currently, California state law permits this. In 2009, Whitman called for “a path to legalization” of illegal immigrants. In a 2010 interview on television station KTLA, Whitman said, “I want to hold employers accountable for hiring only documented workers.” Meg Whitman came under fire for hiring an illegal immigrant herself (see “Housekeeper Controversy” above).
Marriage, abortion, marijuana
During the 2010 California gubernatorial election, Whitman supported California’s Proposition 8, which reversed In re Marriage Cases and defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman in the state. Whitman also criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown for not defending Proposition 8 in the federal judicial system. However, on February 26, 2013, Whitman confirmed that she had reversed that opinion. Whitman stated, “At the time, I believed the people of California had weighed in on this question and that overturning the will of the people was the wrong approach,” and “The facts and arguments presented during the legal process since then have had a profound impact on my thinking.” Whitman also believes that gay and lesbian couples should be permitted to adopt children. Whitman supports abortion rights.
Whitman has said that the legalization of marijuana is not what any law enforcement person would suggest for any reason and that “this is the worst idea ever seen.”
Whitman does not support the proposed and partially voter-funded California High-Speed Rail project. In a letter to the Sacramento Bee Whitman’s spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said, “Meg believes the state cannot afford the costs associated with high-speed rail due to our current fiscal crisis.” Her opponent Jerry Brown is in favor of the project.
Whitman has made monetary donations to various candidates and PACs. While these have gone to both Republicans and Democrats, the donations are weighted to Republicans. Though Whitman has contributed to a few Democrats, including Senator Barbara Boxer; donating $4,000 to her campaign and serving on the “Friends of Boxer” committee in 2004, she donated more than $225,000.00 during the same period to Republicans, eBay’s PAC and to Americans for a Republican Majority, the PAC of former Rep. Tom DeLay.