Worst CEOs of 2011: Greenberg
My pick for winner of this year’s Worst CEO is (drum roll, please) the team of Jim Balsillie and Michael Lazaridis—co-CEOs of Blackberry maker Research in Motion.
While they may appear to be an obvious choice, it wasn’t an easy one.
Among large companies, Research in Motion’s stock isn’t the biggest loser (though it’s not far from it), the company is still making money (though its growth has tumbled) and like most of those contenders: there was a time not that long ago Balsillie and Lazaridis might have been hailed as the best CEOs.
For this year’s crop of contenders, I started by seeking suggestions from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and old-fashioned email.
Not surprisingly, among those receiving the most votes were those no longer in their jobs—like MF Global’s Jon Corzine, Hewlett Packard’s Leo Apotheker and Yahoo’s Carol Bartz.
There were plenty of others mentioned, including Groupon’s Andrew Mason (not on the job long enough, though definitely facing a daunting dance); BofA's Brian Moynihan (his is inherited—jury is still out whether he should take the hit) and Tom Wilson of Allstate (the biggest write-in campaign, by far; but it was a concerted effort by organized disgruntled agents..).
John Chambers of Cisco also picked up a few votes, but the last quarter gives him a temporary stay, as does its bouncing stock.
Based exclusively on the numbers, Nokia’s Stephen Elop deserves to be on the list, but I held off because he’s been on the job only 15 months—and when he took charge the company was already in what appeared to be an irreversible decline.
That leaves the top (or bottom, depending on your perspective) five:
Number 5: Brian Dunn, Best Buy .
Hard to put an up-from-the-ranks “blue shirt” on the list, but Dunn is in a tough spot.
There is little doubt he has worked hard in a tumultuous time. With Circuit City gone, however, Best Buy should have had clear sailing. But the company appears to have misjudged its growing, uninvited role as the “showroom for Amazon,” just as consumer PC-buying patterns and tastes changed.
Even an on-site, Apple-staffed Apple kiosk hasn’t appeared to have helped, nor has the bursting of the flat TV boom. (The TV business has since turned largely into a replacement business—not good when a big part of your business is TVs.)
These are the kinds of challenges that test leadership, and based on the stock price and negative growth, Best Buy has neither articulated nor executed on a strategy that appears to be working.