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Many CEOs carefully cultivate a quiet and considered public image, limiting contact to quarterly earnings calls or the occasional carefully-considered interview. Then there are the others. The ones who make headlines with outbursts on politics, about their competitors, or even against an entire country’s work ethic.
At best, these incidents are distracting. At worst, they hurt a companies reputation and lose them customers. We identified the biggest loose cannons at major companies who can’t seem to stay out of the news.
The News Corporation founder and CEO frequently sounds off on his conservative political views through his twitter account.
On Google: 'Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying.'
On President Obama: 'Yesterday Obama went off script, showed real self ie government omnipotent, individuals secondary. Must be big damage.'
Taylor recently got into a public spat with the French government after failing to come to an agreement to save a factory. He sent a letter to the country's Minister of Transforming Productivity, heavily criticising the French work ethic and unions.
From the letter: 'I have visited the factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three, and work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that's the French way!'
David A. Siegel, founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts and one of the richest men in America told his employees that if President Obama were to win the election, that he would have 'no choice' but to reduce the size of the company.
Siegel's letter to employees, from the HuffingtonPost:
'The economy doesn't currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can't tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn't interfere with your right to vote for whomever you choose...If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company.'
(Not only didn't he fire anyone, he gave all of his employees raises.)
Founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management recently, Ackman participated in a live brawl on CNBC with billionaire investor Carl Icahn. The topic of conversation that fuelled the fight was Herbalife, a multi-level marketing firm that sells nutrition products, which Ackman had called a pyramid scheme at a recent conference. Ackman basically called his rival a hypocrite on live television in an attempt to tarnish his image.
'If the FTC misses Herbalife, it's the equivalent of the SEC missing Madoff.'
'After 18 months of work and assistance of some of the top law firms in the country we've concluded that it's a pyramid scheme.'
'The big issue about Carl Icahn, is he's not used to someone stepping up to him.'
'What I thank Carl for is he helped highlight issues with Herbalife.'
Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey is a professed libertarian and isn't shy about taking public stances on issues he cares about. During an NPR interview he claimed that Obamacare, which he had previously criticised as a form of socialism, was 'more like fascism.'
Here's the quote: 'Technically speaking, it's more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn't own the means of production, but they do control it -- and that's what's happening with our health care programs and these reforms.'
Ellison's Twitter account, from which he has only posted one tweet, already has 35,000 followers who hope to hear from the notoriously outspoken enterprise software chief.
When Hewlett Packard fired then-CEO Mark Hurd, Ellison was not pleased. 'You are going to fire Mark Hurd and hire Leo? What I said at the time was that this was the best idea since the Apple board fired Steve Jobs. Really brilliant.'
Ellison went on to hire Hurd himself. He's also accused SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff of stealing the idea for NetSuite from him.
Softbank's CEO, Masayoshi Son, is known for aggressive business moves, like his $20 billion-dollar acquisition of Sprint.
During that deal, he issued a warning to the other wireless carriers in the United States, saying 'I am a man, and every man wants to be number one, not number two or number three.'
The Fiat and Chrysler CEO is something of a quote-machine, frequently making somewhat impolitic and controversial statements. Reuters reported on one such incident at the Detroit auto show when Marchionne was discussing Alfa Romeo luxury sedans.
'I cannot come up with a schlock product, I just won't,' Marchionne told a room of journalists at the car show. 'I won't put an American engine into that car. With all due respect to my American friends, it needs to be a wop engine.'
'There are some things that are well-done in Italy.'
After reporters registered evident surprise at his use of an ethnic slur, Marchionne turned to one of them and asked, 'Why are you surprised?'
The investor, technology executive, and sports mogul is unafraid to weigh in on everything from presidential politics to Wall Street. He's been fined more than a million dollars by the NBA for statements about the league and officiating.
From a 2012 interview: 'Wall Street used to be a place where you can raise capital to grow businesses. That's not the case anymore. Wall Street has become a platform for hackers.'
The real estate mogul is more than willing to weigh in on politics and the issues of the day, even considering a presidential run at one point. He was criticised for his support of the 'birther' movement, which questioned the validity President Barack Obama's birth certificate.
In an August 2012 Twitter post: 'What's more dangerous for the country -- the Iranian nuclear threat or Barack Obama as President?'
Wynn is so legendarily outspoken that his quarterly conference calls with analysts are one of the highlights of earnings season. He's been particularly critical of the Obama administration.
From a 2011 earnings call: 'I'm saying it bluntly, that this administration is the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime. And I can prove it and I could spend the next 3 hours giving you examples of all of us in this market place that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our health care costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right.'
The head of the chip-maker has had a long-standing feud with rival Intel, once telling analysts that 'we're going to open a can of whoop arse' on the company. In the same call, he referred to Intel's graphics implementation as 'a joke.'
And he has some words of warning for any who would think about going toe to toe with him, telling the BBC, 'Maybe this is a bit of my early schooling -- I will never start a fight, but I will never walk away from one. So if someone is going to pick on me, they'd better think twice.'
Upon learning that executive Mark Lucovsky was defecting to Google, Ballmer allegedly hurled a chair across the room and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade on the company, with promises of revenge, saying that 'Google's not a real company. It's a house of cards.'
Ballmer will take the occasional public crack at Google too, telling the Seattle Times 'I think Google is just another big company at this stage. It's not like they have the charm of smallness or pre-IPO-ness with them.'
Bartz's time as CEO of Yahoo! was relatively brief, clocking in at only two-and-a-half years, it was very intense and occasionally profane. She was never the type to mince words with competitors, journalists, or even her own team.
From when she was first trying to turn the company around:
'So when I say product people we sort of had a one product management person for every three engineers. So we had a lot of people running around telling engineers what to do but nobody is f-ing doing anything. So, excuse me. I knew that would slip out one of these times.'
She's not any less outspoken now, saying about the board that fired her:
'The board was so spooked by being cast as the worst board in the country. Now they're trying to show that they're not the doofuses that they are.'
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