Are you as disturbed as I am about the ascendancy of the celebrity CEO, the buy-in of the mainstream business media in the concept and the interest-conflicted Wall Street analysts that decide these CEOs\u2019 fates? The slew of stories that eviscerate Carly Fiorina are as bad as the ones that elevated her to "single-name" celebrity status in the first place. \n\n\n\nCan a single person really hold that much sway over the fortunes of a company? My experience says no. But that doesn\u2019t stop the media and the analysts from trying. Do your single-day pass thing at Salon and check out this surly piece from a former New York Times writer, and then check out the Carly culture vs. HP culture in Monday\u2019s Times. A CEO can\u2019t matter this much. \n\n\n\nMeanwhile, Fortune has put Carly on the cover so many times since 1999 that it felt duty bound to put a parenthetical in its obit for Carly\u2019s run at HP acknowledging that the magazine had played a part in creating her celebrity (that it was now trashing, of course). It\u2019s like watching the trajectory of Hollywood celebrities in the supermarket check-out line. I don\u2019t think we do that with CIOs here at the magazine, but stop me if you think we have.\n\n\n\nThe HP board screwed up by seeking a celebrity to run the company, a celebrity that assured that every move the company made would be analyzed to the nth degree by the analysts and the media. \n\n\n\nHow do you rebuild a struggling company in that kind of atmosphere? You could say that Gerstner did it at IBM, but in fact Gerstner was working from a much more solid base, and services was a route that anyone seeing the market and the state of the company would have taken if they\u2019d had a grain of sense. \n\n\n\nThe problem here is boards who assign outlandish levels of responsibility and accountability to a single person, lavish too much money on them (isn\u2019t that where all our schadenfreude comes from deep down--the obscene amounts of money that celebrities of all kinds receive?) and then push them in front of a band of analysts who have no economic stake in long-term strategies. It is all about the short-term shuffle of money, mergers and breakups--not because the analysts are inherently evil, but because that\u2019s how the system is set up and it\u2019s how they are rewarded (analysts come from investment banking companies that earn their living doing all these deals).\n\n\n\nWhat analyst is going to have the patience to wait for HP to build itself up to the point where it can afford to compete successfully with IBM--competition that CIOs desperately need over the long term? \n\n\n\nContrary to the harping we\u2019re hearing today, the Compaq acquisition was a route to that, and it wasn\u2019t going all that badly. HP will probably be broken up into slices to compete with Dell at the low end without the benefits of Dell\u2019s direct model, and IBM consulting at the high end, without the legions of other offerings that make IBM so attractive to buyers. \n\n\n\nThe HP board and the business analysts don\u2019t seem to understand that corporations, not consumers, are HP\u2019s long-term customers, and what they want is a stable, diverse company that can offer the whole range of IT needs, from low-end desktops to high-end strategy and really innovative new scientific and technology products from HP\u2019s legendary R&D people. Who is listening to the real market here?