The 10 Dumbest CEO Remarks of All Time
Every leader has a bad day once in a while, but these CEOs came up with one-liners that epitomized everything that was wrong with their leadership.
Thomas Edison: "Tesla, you don't understand our American humor." (1885)
Edison promised the electronics genius Nicola Tesla a bonus of $50,000 if he improved Edison's clunky generator design. When Tesla delivered and Edison reneged, Tesla jumped to Westinghouse, which proceeded to clobber Edison's company in the budding electrical power industry.
Dennis Kozlowski: "All the information the prosecutors got was directly off the books and records of the company." (2007)
Kozlowski had his company Tyco reportedly pay for a $30 million apartment, replete with $15,000 "dog umbrella stands" and a birthday Toga Party for his wife that included a ice sculpture of Michelangelo's David that peed expensive Vodka. He was eventually convicted receiving almost $100 million in unauthorized bonuses and perks.
Ken Olsen: "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." (1977)
Supposedly, the founder and CEO of Digital Equipment Corporation (then the 2nd largest computer manufacturer) wasn't talking about PCs, but his personal distaste for the devices was said to be responsible for DEC's failure to secure any of that all-important market.
Al Dunlap: "You're not in business to be liked. Neither are I. We're here to succeed. If you want a friend, get a dog." (1997)
Tough talking "Chainsaw Al" left a string of enemies in his wake, which provided plenty of willing witnesses in a SEC lawsuit. Dunlap is now banned from serving as an officer or director of any public company.
Kenneth Lay: "Am I a fool? I don't think I'm a fool. But I think I sure was fooled." (2006)
When confronted with the massive fraud at Enron, Lay explained that it wasn't really his fault because he was clueless about what was actually going on.
Gil Amelio: "Apple is like a ship, that ship is loaded with treasure, but there's a hole in the ship. And my job is to get everyone to row in the same direction." (1997)
When Gil Amelio took the helm at Apple, he inherited a company that had just experienced a decade of rapid growth. He then proceeded to make a string of decisions so awful that it took Steve Jobs years to turn the company back around.
Eckhard Pfeiffer: "Today we are making history." (1998)
Under Pfeiffer's leadership, Compaq paid top dollar for two sclerotic minicomputer vendors (Tandem and DEC). With Compaq thus saddled, Dell took the opportunity to kick Compaq's butt in the PC market.
Gerard Levin: "The combination of AOL and Time Warner...has an opportunity on a worldwide basis to make a substantial contribution." (2000)
The mega-merger of the century! A union of traditional media with the World Wide Web! Only one thing wrong: AOL was an concept and company whose time had come and gone.
Bob Benmosche: "It was just as bad and just as wrong." (2013)
When the AIG CEO compared the public outrage over bonuses to lynchings in the Deep South, he identified himself as simultaneously the most insensitive and clueless business leader of all time.
Mark Zuckerberg: "Young people are just smarter." (2007)
The Facebook's CEO's remark seems a bit pre-mature now that Facebook has become the oldster's blogging tool of choice, while teenagers are abandoning it in droves.
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