When you picture the CEO of a major company, you think tact, professionalism, and intelligence. Sure, you occasionally get someone who's eccentric for the sake of being eccentric, but most of the time you can expect that someone with enough level-headedness to run a company will be of relatively sound mind all around. In the case of these five maniacs who somehow crazied their way to the top, though, you'd be completely wrong.
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American Apparel is a company known equally for its progressive Made-in-the-USA labor attitudes and its borderline pornographic ads. As weird as the company's insistence on giving you a boner every time they try to sell you a plain white T-shirt may be, the man behind the company, Dov Charney, is even weirder.
Claudine Ko, a reporter doing a 2004 profile on him for the now-defunct Jane magazine, learned this the hard way (pun very intended). During one interview, Charney and a female employee "put on a show" for her, which means, if we understand the implication, that they banged right in front of her. Over the course of her other interviews, Charney would freely masturbate as she was asking him questions. She took notes throughout the whole thing, some of which we're assuming were just doodles of dicks. As Charney explained to her later, "Masturbation in front of women is underrated."
He then cut the interview short to get to the set of a Geraldo porn parody he was starring in.
Oh, and there's the fact that since the mid-2000s Charney's been sued half a dozen times by his employees for sexual harassment. We have no way of knowing how many of those complaints were legit (most of the cases have been settled or dismissed), but we're talking about a man who admits to regularly holding business meetings in his bedroom. He once bragged about testing his clothing on strippers. On top of all that, he's not shy about appearing in those aforementioned borderline porn ads, most of which look like they were shot with a cellphone camera from the 1970s and then filtered through Instagram.
"You're welcome, ladies."
Oh, he also sometimes parades around the office in his underwear and uploads the footage to the company website. So if you want a quick lesson on how life is different for the rich, try doing any of those things at your workplace. Shit, we're pretty sure that casually joking about wanting to do any of them is enough to get you fired and blacklisted forever. It's good to be CEO!
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It's not all that shocking to find out that companies pay low-level employees to hang around social networking sites and message boards to talk up the product ("Hey, guys, as a hip teenager, I just wanted to mention how fabulous this new Kevin James movie looks!"). What is harder to imagine is the CEO of the company sitting in the corner office and trolling message boards under a fake name.
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Real name, maybe.
The CEO in question was John Mackey of Whole Foods, who must have thought he was pretty damn clever when, sometime around 2000, he created an alter ego in the form of a Yahoo! Finance message board profile under the username "Rahodeb" (an anagram of his wife's name, figure it out for yourself). He used this false identity to post hundreds of messages praising his own company and shitting all over his competition.
He wasn't subtle about it, either, posting spamtastic bullshit like this glowing endorsement of his store's salad dressing:
"Have you had the 365 Organic Miso dressing? It's my personal favorite."
Ranch would later commit suicide out of shame.
He had this to say about his store's abundant ambiance:
"Given a choice between the drab dinginess of most food co-ops and a beautiful, well-stocked Whole Foods Market, most people desert the co-op in droves."
And that's all well and good, but the enthusiasm of his praise for Whole Foods was matched only by his venom for the competition, saying this about rival grocery chain Wild Oats:
"I knew [Wild] OATS was going to eventually crash (and I made quite a bit of money shorting them) because I know their stores, understood their strategy, and knew that Whole Foods would crush them in head to head competition."
He presumably posted this one-handed.
No one fawns like that online without eventually getting called out as a PR company spambot, and Mackey was no exception. After noting that his posts were regularly filled with insider knowledge that the average customer or investor isn't privy to, Mackey's fellow message board users began to rightfully suspect that the CEO himself had infiltrated their group. And that's when things really got weird.
Rather than deny the allegations, Mackey first claimed to be George W. Bush before shifting to the "hiding in plain sight" defense with this post:
"Well if you really believe I'm John Mackey you should probably pay more attention to what I say on this Board. I would be the ultimate Whole Foods Insider!"
He also took to complimenting himself in the third person, praising his "cute" haircut and declaring that "Mackey looks like a model for Brooks Brothers" compared to the people who work for him.
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A resemblance so uncanny, he was named an honorary X-Men.
OK, you say, anyone can get sucked into an Internet flame war, and he probably just got bored one afternoon. But no, this went on for seven goddamn years before he was finally found out. It wasn't until the 2007 antitrust litigation surrounding Whole Foods' bid to buy rival Wild Oats, the same company he vowed to crush in his second life, that court documents brought his longtime habit to light.
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You probably only know GoDaddy.com from the raunchy commercials they run every Super Bowl that have nothing to do with the service they provide as a company. As dumb as the commercials are, you've gotta admit that the marketing works -- GoDaddy's revenue was $1.1 billion in 2011. This is despite the fact that their founder is a crazy person.
Bob Parsons sparked controversy in 2011 when he went elephant hunting in Zimbabwe and filmed the entire thing. You could write this off as just fulfilling the manly safari dreams of every wealthy businessman, and for all we know lots of wealthy people do this sort of thing and keep it quiet. (Note: Killing elephants is kind of frowned upon in the modern world.) But then he uploaded the video to the Internet, titling it "My Vacation Video." In the video, Bob and his guides track down a herd of elephants and shoot one of them. Then the video cuts to a graphic depiction of dozens of villagers ripping the elephant apart for its meat. "Hell's Bells" by AC/DC plays in the background.
"Nobody's putting up a fight," indeed.
Parsons defended the video, claiming he was helping the villagers get rid of a problem elephant that was destroying crops. Fine, but then why were all the villagers wearing orange GoDaddy hats while they were eviscerating Dumbo? Why were videos found of him hunting leopards, too? Or why, if this was strictly charity work, would he put any of this shit online? Parsons says that he takes this trip every year and that it's one of the most "beneficial and rewarding things" he does. As for the leopard hunts, he has since given them up because, you know, that's time that could be spent slaughtering elephants.
In addition to this, Parsons frequently posts cheesy self-help videos on his .me website (complete with a blonde sidekick and graphics made with Microsoft Paint), and even uploaded a trailer for his own wedding video to YouTube. A fucking seven-minute trailer. For his own wedding video.