Fails from the Corner Office: 5 CEOs Who Blew it Big Time

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The higher the fall, the harder the thud. If you thought that only the most talented, scrupulous and exceptional individuals ever got to the executive suites of mighty corporations, then hi there, you must be new, welcome to America! The facts are that corporate heads roll all the time, often as a result of a struggling company looking for a scapegoat, often due to personal failings and sometimes when the global economy tanks. In other situations not meriting the ol’ heave-ho, corporate head honchos get to hold onto their jobs, but boy do we get to revel in their public humiliation.

5 Planes, Trains and Automobiles (But no Trains)

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As the Great Recession took hold of America in late 2008, the Big Three auto companies seemed poised to collapse without government bailout money. So what did the CEOs and other top executives of GM, Chrysler and Ford do? In a move so painfully out of touch with the nation’s pulse that it still hurts to consider the stupidity they displayed, they hopped in private jets and flew down to D.C. to ask for some cash.

4 Lying to Cover the Lying

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Yahoo!’s CEO Scott Thompson was shown the door in May of last year after he showed the world that he was pretty much a petty liar. The situation that started his slide from the top was a little bit of “fudgemanship” on his resume. Thompson claimed to have a degree in both accounting and computer science. One small issue was that he never got a degree in computer science. When this “inaccuracy” (AKA BS) was brought to light, rather than owning up to it, Thompson tried to blame a recruiting company for doctoring his resume without his knowledge. The company proved beyond any doubt that they had done nothing of the sort, and the now twice-busted Thompson was on his way.

3 Oh, What the Customers Want, Right

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Ron Johnson rode the tidal wave of a career as an executive at both Apple and Target right into the CEO position at J.C. Penney … and then promptly found himself dead in the water. Johnson’s radical idea was to eschew the coupons and sales that Penney’s customers had come to know and love over the past few decades, instead turning to a low-priced multiple-boutiques-in-one-store model that the customers had never seen before. And guess what? The plan failed miserably. Less than a year and a half after he was brought in, Johnson was booted back out.

2 More Like Whole Fool

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For the better part of a decade, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey had a secret admirer. This prolific blogger and general online gadabout went by the enigmatic name Rahodeb, and praised everything about Whole Foods – even the handsomeness of Mr. Mackey himself! Which is where things get weird … because it turns out that Rahodeb was Mackey himself, posting under a pseudonym.

1 Fraud, Crime, Death, Etc.

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Kenneth Lay oversaw one of the biggest companies in America for nearly two decades; he also oversaw one of the biggest corporate collapses of all time. Lay was the CEO of Enron – a name now synonymous with fraud and corruption – from the mid-1980s up until its catastrophic failure in the early years of the new millennium. He and a few of his cronies kept Enron stock falsely inflated for years after they knew the company was worth a fraction of its stated value; when the truth came out, the CEO fell hard … but not into prison: Lay managed to die of a heart attack after being convicted of multiple counts of fraud and corruption, but before being sentenced.

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