5 Spectacularly Crazy Meltdowns by CEOs of Major Companies
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.
The CEO of American Apparel Will Happily Show You His Dick
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!
The CEO of Whole Foods Is a Forum Troll
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.
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 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.
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.
The CEO of GoDaddy.com Makes Elephant Slaughter Videos
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.
The CEO of RyanAir Hates Everyone
Michael O'Leary has made a fortune selling really cheap flights across Europe. His company, RyanAir, has built an entire business catering to the kinds of people who value cheap prices more than general safety or not being treated like cattle. It's a perfectly fine arrangement, aside from the fact that O'Leary seems to freaking hate every aspect of it.
"It's kind of nice, I suppose ... Its teeth are kind of fucked up."
Without hesitation, O'Leary constantly talks about how cheap he and his company are and how much he openly resents the customers who made him rich in the first place. For instance, he figured out they could cram more people on the plane by removing all but one toilet, then suggested charging people to use it (if you had no change you could presumably just open a window). He also proposed a "fat tax" for overweight passengers on the RyanAir website, but pulled the program after it was deemed too offensive. Just joking! He did take it down, but only because it was decided that actually collecting the money would be too much of a logistical nightmare.
When a story broke that a RyanAir passenger named Suzy McLeod was charged 300 euros just to print out her boarding passes, O'Leary said, "We think Mrs. McLeod should pay 60 euros for being so stupid ... Thank you, Mrs. McLeod, but it was your fuck up." OK, so she should have read the fine print, but Jesus. Even O'Leary must know that those charges exist just to screw unsuspecting patrons.
"Hey, is there a way we can include this photo on the back of tickets?"
Other than the customer abuse, O'Leary constantly insults everyone around him, especially people he relies on. He said pilots are "platoons of goons" and that one of the main reasons the fares are so low is because "our pilots work for nothing."
But he did make sure to rise to the defense of an "underpaid and underappreciated" employee ... Michael O'Leary.
Oh, and remember the volcanic ash cloud that erupted over Europe a couple of years ago? Remember how every major airline shut down all their flights due to safety concerns over ash choking their engines? O'Leary flew his own test plane and claimed that there was no evidence of ash whatsoever, despite the fact that, according to the British air authorities, he flew nowhere near the cloud.
The Founder of McAfee Antivirus Is a Jungle Spy
John McAfee is famous for the software that bears his name: McAfee antivirus, aka "HOW DO I UNINSTALL THIS PIECE OF SHIT!!!" antivirus.
"Hi, I'm Mac ... I- I've been living with McAfee for three years."
After his memory-hogging software became huge, McAfee did what any of us would do in that situation: He immediately packed up his shit and moved to Belize. Unfortunately, hunkering down in a massive compound in the jungle leads most right-thinking folks to assume you're up to no good. In early 2012, dozens of officers and soldiers raided his jungle property.
Apparently the police thought he was cooking meth. That was absurd, of course. A search of McAfee's compound turned up nothing more than a dozen guns and loads of suspicious-looking lab equipment. Nothing about that says "meth lab" at all. As it turned out, though, the guns were all legal and registered, and the lab was used to manufacture "herbal compounds," so McAfee was back on the jungle streets after a mere 14 hours in custody.
The scan he had started was still going when he returned.
That all changed when his American expat neighbor turned up dead later that year with a gunshot wound to the head. Due to his notoriously eccentric behavior, McAfee was noted as a suspect. Upon hearing this, he did the sensible thing and ran away, convinced that police were going to murder him.
McAfee made his way to Guatemala but was immediately arrested on charges that he was trying to enter the country illegally. In order to give his lawyer time to draw up appeals, he faked a heart attack in detention. It's apparently around this time that Guatemalan officials decided to just let him go to Miami instead of putting up with his shit any further.
As crazy as that story is, it doesn't compare to McAfee's own claims about what he was doing the whole time on the lam. If you guessed "running a secret operation out of the South American jungle spying on the Belize government," then congratulations, you're a deranged millionaire!
His eyes only see in shades of batshit.
According to a lengthy blog post, McAfee purchased 75 laptops, hacked them with surveillance software, and distributed them to powerful government officials. Then he hired a spy ring of 29 operatives (one of whom apparently became a double agent) and wiretapped everyone's phones. Other than the typical sexual affairs and covered-up murders, McAfee claimed he found evidence of a "Hezbollah trafficking network" that was moving 11 terrorists into America every month, information apparently gleaned by his undercover agents.
Not a single thing we said in the preceding paragraph is a joke.
Now back in the U.S., McAfee has since disregarded his own software (he left the company years before all of this) and cranked out an appropriately insane instructional video on how to uninstall it. Be advised: It involves bath salts.
Follow Chris on Twitter or visit him at Laffington.com.
Related Reading: Career meltdowns can be a beautiful thing- watch this young newscaster destroy his hope of employment and bask in the joy of schadenfreude. For some more famous meltdowns, click this link and learn how Wesley Snipes strangled the director of Blade 3. Still haven't seen enough people destroying their careers? This list of coaching meltdowns should set you to rights.