Just a week ago, I shared my list of the top five CEOs working today. It wasn’t easy, as we have a preponderance of visionaries in the market today. In particular, it is nice to have a plurality of powerful technology companies leading the way. That’s a pleasant change from the last big bull market, which was so massively overpowered by the tremendously useful—but otherwise boring and derivative—products of Microsoft. At that time, Bill Gates would have topped almost every list of best CEOs. If he rarely makes anyone’s top ten list today of best past CEOs, it’s because he failed so spectacularly at that all important CEO task, choosing a successor. Alas that we no longer have Steve Ballmer to kick around.
How quickly we go from best to worst. Finding the best CEOs is profitable, but let’s face it, talking about the worst CEOs is more fun, especially when, as in these cases, poor execution is compounded by hubris, and/or exacerbated by sheer dorkiness. So let’s have a bit of fun today pointing out the colossal blunders of our would-be betters, and if there is a cautionary tale or two to be told along the way, a little something to keep honest investors out of trouble, so much the better.
Before we begin, let’s maybe have just a moment of silence for the ones that got away, John Stumpf, who escaped this list by stepping down from his post as CEO of Wells Fargo (WFC) last year, and Roger Ailes, who would have made the list despite being a mere president had he not died in May of this year.