5 Bumbling Bosses Who Lost Everything
Ever dream of rising to the top, so you can call the shots and everyone will respect you? Be careful. No matter how successful you become, you might suddenly embarrass yourself and lose everything. We all of course know the timeworn story of how Lee Iacocca once accidentally farted on a birthday candle and summoned a vengeful djinn, but let's also not forget the time that ...
Fox's President Was Fired For Hiring A Male Stripper To Perform For Dick Cheney
When Stephen Chao joined Fox Television in the '80s, he was handed a tough assignment: make some shows really cheap that will become really popular. This was mostly before what we now call reality TV, so this required new ideas, and Chao had them, starting with a show about current fugitives that he called Electronic Lynching (seriously). It became huge, under the slightly more palatable name America's Most Wanted. Another show of his about cops, innovatively called Cops, became one of the longest-running shows in television history, and nothing short of a nationwide revolution decades later could shut it down.
With so many successes under his belt, Chao was clearly destined to become Fox TV's president. And eight weeks into getting that job, Chao was invited to speak about network standards at a panel called "The Threat to Democratic Capitalism Posed by Modern Culture." If that sounds kind of sinister, well, let's not at all allay those fears by telling you this took place at a retreat in the mountains, which also featured reps from various other Rupert Murdoch outlets and also a speech from Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, to talk about the state of the military.
The panel was supposed to be about how television needs to respect family values (this was a big issue back in the early '90s). But Chao broke ranks with the others on the panel and spoke about how nudity wasn't a big deal. And in a move that completely failed to illustrate his point, he had a man unexpectedly come onstage during the speech and strip naked. Some in the audience laughed. Rupert Murdoch did not. His wife Anna, beside him, averted her eyes, and Chao chided her for this. Cheney and his wife were sitting just feet away from the Rocky Mountain dong, and neither appeared to appreciate its presence.
It's the sort of gag that an executive might get away with on Billions or Succession, but this was real life, so Chao was fired within nanoseconds. Murdoch had put up with a lot from Chao in the past -- one time, Chao'd thrown Anna's dog in a pool and almost drowned it -- but this was too much. The then-president of Fox News became the new president of Fox TV, and Chao went on to a new job: grilling burgers at McDonald's. This was probably more a soul-searching thing than a job he took out of necessity, but either way, he said it sucked.
Nissan's CEO Had To Sneak Out Of Japan Hiding In A Box
You may not have heard of Carlos Ghosn, but you've surely heard of Nissan, Michelin, Renault, and Mitsubishi. Ghosn at various times ran them all, as well as a mysterious cabal that unites them. He was hugely successful, one of the most powerful businessmen in the world, not to mention the star of his own advice-themed manga books. Then he went and got arrested for a bunch of financial crimes, which are too boring to detail here, but rest assured, they netted him millions.
Out on bail, he got arrested again for further financial crimes. Out on bail a second time, he was arrested for even further financial crimes. This was followed by a third arrest for even yet further financial crimes and then a fourth for even yet still further financial crimes. Nissan, meanwhile, removed him from his position, and an incidental dispute with the SEC led him to be effectively banned from ever running a company again. Also, Nissan changed the locks on his various residences. It sounds weird that a company could be able to do this, but he had used company money to pay for them, in what some might characterize as a financial crime.
Ghosn lived in Japan, and he received word that he might soon be arrested again, this time for financial crimes, and things were starting to get serious. His game of bail roulette was running down, and if he wanted to escape justice, he'd have to escape the country altogether, even though he was currently banned from traveling. The exact method he used to escape is still unconfirmed. But authorities believe he hid in a case used for storing audio equipment, which avoided being X-rayed because it can't fit in the machine. Seems like kind of a dangerous oversight, but anyway, he managed to get that case smuggled onto a plane and himself smuggled out of Japan.
Half a dozen accomplices, including an ex-Green Beret, have been arrested for assisting in his flight, while Ghosn himself is now a fugitive in Lebanon. It must have been an ignominious escape, a millionaire having to endure conditions that are arguably even less comfortable than flying economy, but that would be been worth it if it led him to sweet freedom. It may not have, though. Lebanon is now also banning him from traveling and keeping a closer eye on him than Japan did, his assets worldwide are being seized, and he may be set to be arrested again, this time by Interpol. If he wants to truly be free, he'll have to escape again, abandon all wealth, and travel incognito using the ninja skills he learned as Batman.
David Edmondson Spent 11 Years Rising To Become RadioShack's CEO, Before He Was Kicked Out For Making Up His Degrees
Don't get us wrong -- the guy we're about to talk about sucks. But when you lie on your resume for a job, you'd think there'd generally be a statute of limitations on how long it can bite you in the ass. If you spend, say, a decade with a company and work your way up to CEO, it seems like you'd have proven yourself to be qualified regardless of whether your entire original resume was just a cleverly disguised retelling of Forrest Gump. Yet RadioShack's CEO was indeed booted when his lies came out. Scrutiny first fell on him in 2005 because he did something rather worse than lying on his resume: he was arrested for driving drunk. For the third time.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote up the arrest of the man who'd become CEO just two weeks previously, and they had trouble verifying some background details on him. So they contacted him about the two college degrees he claimed to have, and when pressed, he admitted, whoops, he didn't really have those. He actually only had a different degree, a theology one from a non-accredited Bible college. The diligent staff at the Star-Telegram tried to verify this as well and found this was also a lie (he'd gone to the college but never graduated). RadioShack forced Edmondson's resignation. It was a matter of trust. Without trust in RadioShack, they reasoned, customers would just start buying everything online at Amazon, to which everyone said, "good idea, let's do that."
A lot of people are eventually toppled for claiming fake degrees, though it's rarely so high-profile as what happened to Edmondson. Take Joe Galloway, a manager at a British IT firm. He claimed to have an MBA from Concordia College and University, which isn't the sort of thing you generally make a court case over, except that his claimed expertise became a centerpiece in a 50-million-pound legal dispute, so yeah, it really did become a court case.
"Your MBA is a worthless online degree!" argued the opposing lawyer, Mark Howard. The institution, headquartered in the Virgin Islands, wasn't a real university at all. As proof, he revealed that he had enrolled an acquaintance of his, Lulu, in the very same college, and she was able to obtain a degree just fine. Which sounds like Mark had an unfairly cruel low opinion of Lulu, until you realize that Lulu was Mark's pet schnauzer. (The dog had in fact obtained higher marks at Concordia than Galloway.)
Bank Chair Was Barred From The Industry After Tipping Off His Porn Star Mistress (Who Then Tipped Off Her Other Boyfriend)
James McDermott liked money, which was why he rose to the position of chair at the investment banking firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. He also liked sex, which was why he rose to the position of standing-rear-entry with his paramour, Kathryn Gannon. But do not think this is one of those stories about corporate execs obsessed with hookers and blow. Gannon was not a prostitute, McDermott repeatedly clarified, despite what various news outlets reported. She was merely a porn star, who performed under the name Marilyn Star.
As an investment banker, you're privy to all kinds of information you must keep secret, otherwise everyone will trade based on insider knowledge and the whole system will collapse. But McDermott went and disclosed some of this info to Gannon. Prosecutors do not specify that he divulged this information immediately post-coitus, but this is implied. Either that or he ejaculated the info at the exact moment of orgasm, because when you are a banker, stock tips are the only way you can get off.
McDermott got kicked out of his company, was fined $230,000, and was banned from ever trading again. Gannon went to jail, but she said she'd be fine there because, no joke, "I'm from Canada, and I can handle it." She'd in fact briefly fled to Canada in a failed attempt to escape the charges, and her arrest gave her a chance to speak to the public about how she was the victim in all this. "Older men like younger women because they are too dumb to stand up for their rights," she said, "Instead of saying no, they say yes, Daddy, yes Daddy."
McDermott was up for insider trading charges as well, but he avoided any jail time. The issue was that in addition to making around $100k using McDermott's tips, Gannon had also given the information to another boyfriend, who'd made another $100k for himself. Authorities figured it was unfair to tie McDermott to this second charge, as he'd had no idea this other man even existed. Or, decoded: They felt sorry for him when they realized his porn star girlfriend was cheating on him, so they dropped those charges, in accordance with the bro code.
A Turkish Businessman Paid Millions To The French Defence Minister (Who Was Just A Guy In A Rubber Mask)
One day, you receive a Skype call, and it's from someone totally unexpected. It's your country's Minister of Defence (if you're in the US, that would be Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, unless he's been replaced for disloyalty by the time this is published). He appears to be sitting at his official desk in his official office, and he has an official request for you. Islamic terrorists have kidnapped journalists, and the government can't violate policy to pay the ransom. Do you step up, make the payment, and be a hero?
Of course you don't. You're too smart for that. The story sounds absurd to you. The idea makes no sense, and the face on the supposed government official looks suspiciously like a silicone mask. But most of all, you don't send the money because you don't have any money. Plus, you're nowhere important enough for someone like that to reach out to you anyway.
Other people, however, have plenty of money and are plenty important. So when Israeli con artist Gilbert Chikli contacted them, posing as French Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian, this was a validation of their role in the world. The president of Gabon was not fooled, and nor was the archbishop of Paris, the King of Belgium, or a French AIDS charity. But the Aga Khan, who's led Shia Islam for over 60 years, was fooled. So were several business executives whose names have been kept private.
One businessman, though, was conned for more than everyone else combined. Turkish auto magnate Inan Kirac was tricked into paying some $60 million in 2016. On one hand, this guy was paying money in the hopes of saving reporters' lives, so he has to be one of the most honorable multi-million-dollar con victims in the history of multi-million-dollar con victims. But on the other ... c'mon, how can you not laugh at anyone who'd fall for this scam? This guy should be excommunicated from the entire automotive industry. Selling cars means you're supposed to con other people, not get conned yourself.