The dubious title of worst corporate deal ever had seemed to be held in perpetuity by AOL’s acquisition of Time Warner in 2000, a deal that came to define the folly of the Internet bubble. It destroyed shareholder value, ended careers and nearly capsized the surviving AOL Time Warner.
The deal was considered so bad, and such an object lesson for a generation of deal makers and corporate executives, that it seemed likely never to be repeated, rivaled or surpassed.
Hewlett-Packard’s acquisition last year of the British software maker Autonomy for $11.1 billion “may be worse than Time Warner,” Toni Sacconaghi, the respected technology analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, told me, a view that was echoed this week by several H.P. analysts, rivals and disgruntled investors.
So in other words, worse than the idea to merge AOL and Time Warner into a single company. Which means HP really screwed the pooch here — during a period of already-extreme pooch-screwing at the company, by the way. Among pooches screwed during the summer and early fall of 2011? The unceremonious killing of the WebOS platform (remember the TouchPad’s fire sale?), the attempted spinning off of the company’s PC business (since reconsidered), and the resignation of particularly awful CEO Leo Apotheker, who orchestrated all of these awful business decisions.