Lotus' Papows replies to WSJ claims, bias suits

Lotus CEO Jeff Papows says the press' interest in a host of details about his background is a 'mystery' considering that he's neither a public official nor the CEO of a huge company. A story in the Wall Street Journal claims Papows lied about his personal history and embellished his military record with prospective customers.

When he was an undergraduate student majoring in biology, Lotus Development President and CEO Jeff Papows wanted to be a veterinarian.

But the PC revolution of the 1980s came along and the software industry captured Papows' imagination. Today, he says the press' interest in a host of details about his background is a "mystery" considering that he's neither a public official nor the CEO of a huge company.

In a meeting with three journalists at the Lotus Global Government Forum here, Papows said that few customers have asked him about an April story in the Wall Street Journal that said Papows has lied about his personal history and embellished his military record with prospective customers.

"I'm not a public official so it's a mystery to me that someone is so interested in my martial arts hobbies," Papows said, adding that it would be more understandable if he was at the head of a larger company. "It's a little hard to understand."

Customers have brought up the charges with Papows "less than a handful of times," Papows said, most often because they were "confused" by the news report. Papows has offered to discuss the article with customers, he said, pointing out that the article was "littered with inaccuracies." But customers generally say "Let's move on," Papows said, noting that European customers have been even less interested in the issue than U.S. customers.

"I guess its the price of prominence," Papows said of the article, adding "I think it's an aberration."

Concerning more recent reports of gender bias charges waged against Lotus -- at least one of which named Papows -- the Lotus executive said it was "premature" for the press to report on cases currently in litigation and said that he couldn't comment directly on the specifics of the charges while litigation is ongoing. [See "UPDATE 3: Lotus' Papows Named in Bias Complaints," May 12.]

One case involving Papows was reportedly filed by Arlene Greene, an 11-year Lotus employee and former manager. She was fired last October because of company-wide reductions, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, but alleges that she was dismissed after complaining about gender and age bias at Lotus. The complaint she filed reportedly said that Papows and his executive assistant Sharon Ricci, with whom the report said he has had a long-term affair, singled out female employees for ill treatment, according to the Journal.

"I wasn't even aware that the woman had left the company," Papows said today, adding that Greene was several levels removed from him in Lotus' organizational structure. "I haven't had direct contact with her in years."

Further, Papows said the claims of gender bias are confusing considering that nearly half of his direct reports are women, including Lotus' chief information officer, senior vice president of communication products, and chief financial officer. "I stand on my track record," Papows said against the allegations of gender bias.

Many large companies have a number of employee complaints pending against them at any one time so its not unusual that the same is true at Lotus, Papows noted, adding that many news reports have failed to mention this perspective.

In discussing his background, Papows said his undergraduate degree was in biology. "I wanted to be a veterinarian," he said, adding that his involvement in the PC industry was not due to any "initial design."

"I was captivated with the notion of changing how society works, as trite as that may sound," Papows said.

Lotus, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, can be reached at +1-617-577-8500 or on the World Wide Web at http://www.lotus.com/.

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