Albert J. Dunlap Turned An Appliance Company Into An Empire Of Violence And Fraud
Albert J. "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap was a man who lived to fire. And when he became the head of appliance maker Sunbeam, he had the perfect opportunity to rev up his pink slip producer. Derided by critics as someone who "sucked the very life and soul out of companies," he slashed half of Sunbeam's 12,000 employees, five of their six offices, and 16 of 26 factories. He was known as manipulative, ruthless, and controlling, all characteristics you clearly need to sell overpriced bread makers.
But at least profits and sales shot up under his tyrannical reign. The day he was announced as CEO, in July '96, Sunbeam's stock jumped from $12.50 to $18.50. By 1998 it was at $53. Sure, he was an eccentric who posed for photos in an ammo belt and billed the company for a bulletproof jacket and handgun, but one of the 6,000 people he laid off would probably take a shot at him sooner or later, right? Sure, his board members worried about his sanity, but what hard evidence did they have besides the time he threw a chair at the head of HR? And that time he covered an employee's mouth and threatened to ruin them if they ever slighted him? If you can't handle a little violence in the workplace maybe you shouldn't have signed up for a tour of selling midrange kitchen appliances.
Dunlap's madness was tolerated as long as Sunbeam kept raking in money. But, in 2002, analysts noticed an odd trend. During the winter, barbeques were selling like every day was Black Friday. Curious, the SEC began investigating Sunbeam, its accountant Arthur Andersen (the same vigilant industry titan that let Enron cook their books right under their nose), and the CEO with a "myopic obsession" with financials. Sure enough, Dunlap had invented $60 million of Sunbeam's supposed 1997 revenue of $187 million. He was sued, fired, fined, and eventually forced to retire while agreeing to never again work as an executive or board member of any company. He was then stuck, uh, enjoying an early retirement with his vast fortune. Justice kind of prevailed!
Charlie Ergen Founded Dish, Made It America's Worst Employer
Dish, the cable alternative we all tried and then quit as soon as Netflix arrived, made founder Charlie Ergen disgustingly rich and his employees just disgusted. A self-proclaimed micromanager, Ergen took pride in the fact that he treated his workers like preschoolers. Dish employees had to sign in with a badge -- later a fingerprint -- and if you were even a minute late, HR would get an email. Tardy executives would get a personal visit from Chrono-Scrooge. And to make sure he wasn't paying you too much, you had to sign out to go to the washroom. In 2012, 24/7 Wall Street named Dish America's worst employer.
Frustrated that something as simple as snow, aka Satan's Shareholder Sabotage, could occasionally keep employees from working, Ergen suggested that everyone book hotel rooms near HQ on stormy nights. No, of course the company wouldn't pay for it. Just like they also wouldn't pay for tips over 15%, counted right down to the penny. It got to the point where employees considered Dish a "poisonous environment" with an office that was a "danger to the soul."