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The unanswered question following the resignation last week of Jill Barad as CEO and Chairman of toymaker Mattel is, was she pushed to resign from the Microsoft board as well last September? We can be pretty sure that Microsoft would not like to have a member of its board running an unsuccessful company. The problems at Mattel were well enough known: losses in three of the last four quarters, and a particularly steep loss in Q4, with earnings per share around half that anticipated. The principal cash sink was The Learning Company, bought for $3.6 billion in the hope of using its software to make interactive toys. Barad, a former actress and beauty consultant, claimed that she hadn't been fully briefed about the impending losses by executives. Last year Fortune magazine had placed her on its list of five CEOs who "need to wake up fast". The Mattel board decided that The Learning Company results were unacceptable, so she resigned. Gates was evidently pleased to get her on the board in 1996 (she was the first female since Portia Isaacson in 1986-7), but her resignation in late September must have occurred when she knew that the Q3 financial outcome of Mattel would not be good. She said at the time that "in three years with Microsoft and Bill Gates, I gleaned more about where the world is going than I could have in a lifetime." When she stepped down from the board, she sold all her Microsoft shares. ®

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