Meg Whitman Lashes Out at Craigslist, Google in Her New Book
Meg Whitman’s image took a beating last month when, during the course of an ongoing lawsuit, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster testified how he’d been told that the governor hopeful could be “evil” and act like a “monster” when crossed. (That little matter where Whitman’s two sons were revealed to be hugely racist probably didn’t help much, either.)
Now, Whitman is firing back in her new book, just out this week, “The Power of Many.”
For much of the book, Whitman straddles between Sarah Palin-type folksiness (she uses phrases like “pleased as punch” and talks about how thrilling it was to actually slum it by going to grocery stores with the locals on trips to St. John), and boardroom mantras. But she can’t help to take a few digs at companies like Craigslist and Google – and hold them up as examples of bad decision-making that, as chief of eBay, she wisely avoided.
She introduced Craigslist by taking the tone of a disappointed mother scolding a puppy who’s just peed on the floor. While eBay operated completely ethically and within the law, “a most unfortunate example of one that didn’t is Craigslist.” Craigslist became a real “wake-up call,” she writes, when it “was starting to getting [sic] more listings for used cars then eBay Motors was getting.” (Apparently she also shares Palin’s distaste for proper grammar.) Like any concerned parent, Whitman tried to intervene. But, with smug paternalism, she laments how the founders of Craigslist “resisted attempts by us, or even law enforcement, to try to make sure the listings were legal and conformed to some kind of safe and ethical standard.” She closes out this discussion by bringing up Philip Markoff, a student accused of killing two women he met via Craigslist, and noting: “He now is routinely called the ‘Craigslist Killer.’”
In the next chapter, on frugality in the business world, Whitman also stops to scold Google for daring to offer employees perks beyond staples and toner. “There are dangers to creating a perk-filled culture, and I suspect it is now running into them.” Predicting that Google will regret treating their employees so kindly, she writes, “It can be difficult to adjust people’s expectations once they have gotten used to certain indulgences.”
These are just a few of many little nuggets of wisdom in “The Power of Many” – and I look forward to discovering the rest.