Lotus executives are saying little in response to a Wall Street
Journal article yesterday that raised questions about the integrity of the
company's president Jeffrey Papows.
Observers said that while the article raises some serious credibility
concerns, they doubt it will have any impact on business or the executive's
future in the company.
The article in yesterday's Journal profiled Papows as an ambitious executive
who may have lied about his educational background, military service record,
and personal history in order to advance his career and Lotus's sales.
Bryan Simmons, Lotus vice president of worldwide communications, said the
article is nothing but "rumors strung together by commentary."
The Cambridge-based company's parent IBM
referred all questions about the article back to Simmons.
Yesterday, Papows issued an internal email to Lotus employees, claiming that
the story "includes false allegations about my career and military
experience," according to the Boston Globe. In the email, Papows
did not dispute any specifics of the allegations, the Globe reported.
Sam Albert, a longtime analyst of IBM business strategy, said he questioned
the relevance of the story. "What does it do to hurt performance, business,
or his leadership?"
Albert, who was at IBM headquarters when the story broke yesterday, said
Papows provided adequate responses to the accusations. "I just don't
understand the meaning of the article. It's a discussion of a person's
More importantly, Albert said he doesn't expect the accusations will force
Big Blue to dismiss Papows. "Even if all of this is true, it doesn't impact
his performance at Lotus, which has been stellar."
In the Journal article, former colleagues and Lotus customers recall being "wowed by
what Papows has told them about his life--his rise from orphan to Marine
flier who burst an eardrum training for the Gulf War and who once saved
himself and a buddy by hurling a live grenade out of a trench."
Drawing from a host of sources, from former military brass to former
coworkers and Lotus executives, the Journal draws a picture of a successful
tech-executive who may have stretched the truth to get where he is.
The Journal article said Papows claimed he had a PhD from Pepperdine
University, but actually holds a master's from Pepperdine and a PhD from a
correspondence school. Papows also bragged of having a black belt in tae
kwan do, according to the report, but actually has a red belt. Further,
although Papows allegedly told business associates that he was an orphan,
his parents live in Massachusetts.
After initially being surprised by the article that ran on the front
page of the prestigious newspaper, a number of observers
who have watched both IBM and Lotus for years said they don't expect to
see any immediate negative impact on the company's business or to Papows's standing with
The article is "embarrassing," said Eric Brown, an analyst with Forrester, but could have been more
damaging had it been published earlier this year. "Had this story come out
in January, this would have been disastrous. They already had egg on
their face at that time."
In January, Papows stood on a stage at Lotusphere99 in
Orlando, Florida, the company's user conference, and informed the audience
that the next version of its popular groupware package Notes/Domino R5
was going to be delayed roughly another month. The delay--the second
major setback for the company's flagship product--was not the last, however.
Lotus did not begin general shipment of the software package until April 1.
"Now that R5 has shipped I don't think this will make a difference,"
The Journal article also asked Marine officers in charge of choosing
what Intranet software to purchase and who had chosen Lotus Notes, over
Microsoft Exchange, whether
Papows' military past had anything to do with their decision. They told
the newspaper it had.