So you may recall that in early January we appointed Andrea Jung, the CEO of Avon, to our board of directors. To be honest I didn’t think much about it at the time other than maybe I was a little bit worried that having a chick in meetings might be kind of a buzz kill. Well, it turns out we’ve made a horrible mistake.
For one thing, she smacks people. I mean full-strength slaps right across the face, for anyone who disagrees with her. Last week she was here in Cupertino and Bertrand Serlet said something in a meeting about why he needed a budget increase and wham — just like that, she smacked him across the face. Hard. Almost knocked his eye out. She does this all the time. To everyone around her. Her driver. Her assistant. The barista at Caffe Mac. Step out of line, and bam. Face slap. And you never know when it’s coming.
So far she hasn’t tried it on me but I’ve already started flinching when she gets close. Meanwhile it’s been six weeks now and all she’s done is complain. She wants meetings. She wants numbers. She wants explanations and factory tours and sit-downs with design teams and finance people.
She’s sending memos to Peter Oppenheimer and driving him nuts with phone calls and voice mail and email. She says we’re totally not managing our money correctly and we’ve got way too much money in the bank because we’re sitting on $18 billion in cash and we’ve got no debt and we owe it to shareholders to put that money to work and we should be acquiring companies or buying back shares and she’s got all these ratios about cash flow and return on equity and our velocity of capital, whatever the frig that is — I’m not even sure if it’s a real thing, to be honest. Even Peter says he’s never heard of it.
So I’m like, Um, excuse me, lady, now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an MBA and I was never very good at math since I’m totally right-brain and artsy, hence the black turtlenecks, but I have been around business most of my life and I’ve always understood that it was a good thing to have loads of money and no debt. But what do I know? Maybe things are different in the makeup industry. But see, this is tech. And maybe you haven’t figured this out but you and I aren’t colleagues. You don’t actually work here, okay? You’re just on the board, and that’s a great thing, I’m all for diversity, but just so you understand your duties, all you’re supposed to do is show up for the meeting every quarter and vote the way I tell you.
She gives me this look and says — get this — she says that she works for the shareholders and that I work for her. That’s she’s my boss. I’m like, Lady, I’ve never had a boss in my life and I’m not about to start now and honestly I am going to friggin kill Al Gore for convincing me that we needed a woman on our board even though I told him there’s a reason why you don’t see many women running tech companies and it ain’t for lack of trying. I mean they’re fantastic at stuff like PR and maybe marketing as long as when you say marketing you really just mean a fancy word for PR. Advance work, making sure the hotel has the right water in my room at exactly the right temperature — stuff like that, stuff where I don’t actually have to really deal with them except to give them orders, and then when I tell them to leave, they do.
So Andrea gets this big tude and she’s like, Excuse me? I’m like, You heard me. But in case it slipped past you, let me be more explicit. I don’t like working with women. Maybe you’ve seen my management team. That lineup didn’t happen by accident, okay?
We were alone when this happened. In my office. Standing up, facing each other. She stepped up to me until she was almost touching me. I figured she was going to go for the slap and I was ready to block and counter with a blow to the solar plexus but instead she just leaned in and said to me, in a voice that was hardly more than a whisper: “Listen. Let’s get something straight. Like it or not, I’m on your board of directors. And like it or not, that means you answer to me. If I say I want some numbers, you get them. If I want a meeting, you set it up. And let me make you a promise right here and right now. If you get in my way, or if you try to fuck me up, I will bite off your fucking nuts and shove them up your skinny little white boy ass. Do you understand me? Are we clear? Good.”
Then she left. I stood there shaking. In my entire life I don’t think anyone has ever spoken to me like this. I called Peter Oppenheimer and Katie and told them to get here, ASAP. We conference called Al Gore and Jerry York and told them. Al said I shouldn’t get too upset, that Andrea sometimes comes across as abrasive and he’s heard about the slapping and he’ll talk to her about that but down deep she’s really a sweeetheart when you get to know her and she’s just very direct and honest and that’s a good thing. Jerry York just sat there laughing and then he said, “Kid, am I to understand that I just got pulled out of a meeting so that you could tell me that you got beat up by a girl? And you want me to do something about this? Seriously?”
Oh man. I really do not like where this is headed.