The 10 Most Shocking CEO Departures Of 2010

ceo fired

2010 was a tough year for CEO’s. The one’s who made our list include victims of sexual harassment suits, industrial disasters or structural reorganization with companies looking for fresh blood.

Some were more blindsided than others. Jeff Zucker was caught in the middle of an acquisition, while Tony Hayward‘s demotion was in the cards as soon as the rig blew up — although he ruined a salvageable position with thoughtless comments and yacht race appearances.  

Some changes saw share prices soar, Nokia’s went up 5.8% after Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo‘s departure while others brought the company flak. Take a look at 2010’s luckless CEOs.

Owen Van Natta fails to deliver on MySpace, is forced out

Job: CEO of MySpace

Date of resignation: February 10, 2010.

What happened: Owen Van Netta was given the boot by News Corp Digital's CEO, Jon Miller. Weeks before his replacement though he was at the World Economic Forum and things seemed fine. At the time Miller stated in a press release: 'In talking to Owen about his priorities both personally and professionally going forward, we both agreed that it was best for him to step down at this time. I want to thank Owen for all of his efforts.

John Varley lets an American take charge of an iconic British institution

Job: CEO of Barclays

Date of resignation: March 31, 2011.

What happened: American Robert E. Diamond Jr. who has worked with John Varley in the past is set to become CEO in 2011 Barclays announced this September. Varley has recently come under fire for defending bankers bonuses in the wake of the financial crisis. It was thought that he closely lost out to Varley in 2004.

Impact: Share prices are not believed to be influenced by this announcement. Diamond's appointment indicates Barclay's decision to expand global operations and push investment banking.

Source: Barclays

Tony Hayward makes a disaster even worse, gets demoted

Job: CEO of BP

Date of resignation: July 27, 2010

What happened: Having worked at BP for 30 years the Macondo spill was going to end Hayward's run as CEO. But Hayward's statements dubbing the spill 'relatively tiny' and later saying 'I want my life back' only compounded his problems. Hayward has been replaced by Robert Dudley. In a press statement Hayward said:

'The Gulf of Mexico explosion was a terrible tragedy for which - as the man in charge of BP when it happened - I will always feel a deep responsibility, regardless of where blame is ultimately found to lie.'

Impact: Shares dropped by about 50% in the wake of the spill but Hayward's departure didn't hugely affect share prices. Dudley has said that BP will continue to explore deepwater drilling and in September, he announced a new overarching safety and risk unit.

Mark Hurd forced to resign after a quasi-sex scandal

Ed Whitacre splits right before IPO

Job: CEO of GM

Date of resignation: August 12, 2010.

What happened: The news that Whitacre was being replaced came as a surprise because the announcement came days before the GM's IPO. Whitacre has been replaced by Dan Akerson.

Impact: GM's IPO raised $20.1 billion selling at $33 a share despite Whitacre's resignation but it's share prices have lost value since.

Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo crumbles against the iPhone (shocking), gets dismissed (not shocking)

Job: CEO of Nokia

Date of resignation: September 20, 2010.

What happened: Nokia's last success with the smartphone came when Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo became CEO in 2006. While it continues to be the world's largest phone maker, it announced in 2009 that its share of the handset market would plateau in 2010. Nokia's dismal performance compared to Apple's iPhone had brought Kallasvuo criticism. The company indicated in April this year that it was seriously considering replacing Kallasvuo who had spent 30 years at the company, to placate angry investors he was replaced by Microsoft's Stephen Elop.

Impact: Nokia shares rose 5.8% after the company announced that Kallasvuo was being shafted. Elop has a background in engineering and Nokia hopes that his arrival will lead to significant software changes that will boost phone sales.

Jeff Zucker doesn't fit the Comcast mould, gets fired

Job: President and CEO of NBC Universal

Date of resignation: September 24, 2010.

What happened: Jeff Zucker's role at NBC had come under scrutiny ever since Comcast announced that it would acquire 51% of its shares and Zucker himself admitted to differences with Comcast's CEO Steve Burke.

Impact: NBC Universal is a GE subsidiary that would give Comcast majority control in a $30 billion deal The merger has raised concerns over its threat to competitors.

Evan Williams thinks being CEO 'sucks', steps down

Job: CEO of Twitter

Date of resignation: October 4, 2010.

What happened: The company took off under his leadership building from 3 million users in 2006 to 165 million now. In a statement on twitter blog he said: 'I am most satisfied while pushing product direction. Building things is my passion, and I've never been more excited or optimistic about what we have to build.'

Williams demoted himself and asked former COO Dick Costolo to take his place.

Impact: Twitter is a private company looking at an IPO in 2013. Williams wanted to focus on product redesign strategy while new CEO will focus on fattening its revenue streams.

Jeffrey Kindler takes wild chances, disliked by investors, gets forced out

Job: Chairman and CEO of Pfizer

Date of resignation: December 5, 2010.

What happened: Having spent 4.5 years as chairman and CEO of Pfizer, Kindler's resignation came out of the blue. In a press release he said 'I am excited at the opportunity to recharge my batteries, spend some rare time with my family, and prepare for the next challenge in my career.'

Analysts believe that Kindler was voted out by board members because Pfizer's stock prices were struggling - the company's shares have dropped 27% since he became CEO. In 2009, he acquired Wyeth Pharmaceuticals for $68 billion and the company partially raised funds for the purchase by cutting its dividend in half. The company was also investigated for illegal marketing of drugs and paid $2.3 billion in settlements. Kindler was replaced by Pfizer's Ian Read.

Impact: Pfizer's shares went up 1.4% following Kindler's resignation and the company announced an 11% increase in dividends.

Michael Geoghegan doesn't make chairman and loses CEO spot

Job: CEO of HSBC

Date of resignation: December 31, 2010.

What happened: Michael Geoghegan expected to be made Chairman of HSBC. Instead he will be stepping down as CEO to be replaced by long time HSBC employee Stuart Gulliver who is currently executive director of HSBC Holdings and chairman of Europe, Middle East, and Global Businesses.

Impact: HSBC's shares dropped 6% this year but Bloomberg surveyed 20 investors and found that none of them supported Geoghegan, so it remains unclear how his eventual departure will affect share prices.

But those aren't the only rich guys who had a bad year...

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