The 10 Worst Career Implosions of 2010

Steven Rattner, Bret, Jeff, Tony

Poor Steven Rattner was sued by New York the same day his pet project, GM, went public. From General McCrystal to Mel Gibson, these are the worst career crashes of the year. Professional flare-ups can be good for business. Conan O’Brien may have gotten unceremoniously booted from the throne of late night on NBC, but what he lost in airtime he won back in press coverage and severance ($33 million), not to mention his fast return to

TV with Conan on TBS. Juan Williams came out on top after another flap in which the employer ended up looking the fool. NPR fired him for statements he made on The O’Reilly Factor that it deemed to be “inconsistent with [its] editorial standards,” allowing Fox news to promptly snap him up and the peanut gallery to rail against NPR for being irrational and hypocritical.

Another winner: Mark Hurd. The ex-Hewlett-Packard head, who reinvigorated the company from the doldrums in which it was left by Carly Fiorina, resigned amid charges of falsifying expense reports after initial accusations of sexual harassment didn’t stick. He was anointed co-president of rival tech firm Oracle less than a month later.

But some stupid mistakes or unlucky utterances aren’t so well-rewarded. Mel Gibson’s misogynistic and violent voicemails have him blacklisted in Hollywood and Charlie Rangel was declared unethical by a jury of his peers. Even Silvio Berlusconi, who has remained in power for decades despite damning allegations of every colour, is at risk of losing his position of prime minister thanks to his brush with “bunga bunga.” Who had the biggest crashes of 2010? 

This article originally appeared at The Daily Beast and is republished here with permission.

Steven Rattner

November should have been a grand month for Steven Rattner, the private equity honcho and former head of Obama's auto industry restructuring efforts. But instead of celebrating the IPO of General Motors, Rattner is being sued by New York attorney general (and soon-to-be governor) Andrew Cuomo for at least $26 million for his alleged role in a pay-to-play scheme to get investments from the New York State pension fund.

Rattner already agreed to a settlement with the SEC, accepting a two year ban from the securities industry and coughing up $6.2 million in fines. In response to the suits, Rattner announced, 'I will not be bullied simply because the attorney general's office prefers political considerations instead of a reasoned assessment of the facts…I intend to clear my name by defending myself vigorously against the politically motivated lawsuit.'

Jeff Zucker

Zucker is the man that built his reputation by installing the NBC Today show in a see-through studio and convincing musicians to perform to miniature masses in Rockefeller centre. But as morning television made his career, primetime power destroyed it.

When he was promoted to CEO of NBC, the network was high on the success of Friends, but its ratings soon fell, tarnished by series failures and hiring misfires (Ben Silverman, anyone?). Of course, putting Jay Leno on at 10 p.m. and then quickly rescinding Conan O'Brien's newfound seat behind the Tonight Show desk when the pilot was a ratings disaster was the final straw.

Brett Favre

Ask any red-blooded American man who Brett Favre is and the answer will likely be: 'One of the best National Football League quarterbacks. Ever.' True enough, but he's tugged at fans' heartstrings enough the past few years--retiring, unretiring, et cetera--that there's little public sympathy when embarrassing things happen to him.

Like alleged pictures of his penis showing up on Gawker Media's Deadspin, which the company obtained for a mere 12 grand and which Favre (allegedly) sent to a female sideline reporter along with sexy voicemails.

To be fair, Favre does a lot of good in the communities he works in. He and his wife donated $600,000 to four Minnesota charities in October. Still, making it rain on a penis picture snafu, even one on which the jury is still out, doesn't make it any less of a penis picture snafu. And on the football front it's been a far from stellar season for the future Hall of Famer. He's on pace to break his career single-season turnover mark.

Tony Hayward

If it wasn't a good year for oil giant BP, it was an even worse year on a personal level for CEO Tony Hayward.

There wasn't much public sympathy for the man who served as BP's public face after the worst oil leak in history. Not that he did a bang up job on the public relations front. Hayward infamously said he, 'wanted his life back,' while yachting off the English coast.

It was just one of many miscues in a rapid crash and burn for Hayward, who led BP from 2007 until he was fired in July. As for the yachting incident, would Hayward change anything? Not really. 'I hadn't seen my son for three months, I was on the boat for six hours...I'm not certain I'd do anything different,' he said.

Charles Rangel

Charlie Rangel just can't catch a break. His much-touted decades of public service have been long forgotten since he was first accused of ethical breaches more than two years ago for failing to report income from property in the Dominican Republic, misleading disclosures of income, and soliciting money inappropriately.

After his pleas for an extension to find counsel (after doling out $2 million already, he claims he can no longer afford lawyers) were rejected this week, the ever-diplomatic Rangel walked out of the proceedings. Not that that stopped the congressional panel from finding him guilty of 11 House ethics violations. The committee's top lawyer recommended Rangel face censure.

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