In March 2010, Jon Corzine had been out of his job as New Jersey governor for two months. At the same time, the derivatives brokerage firm MF Global was looking for a candidate with both executive and financial sector experience to become its chief executive. Corzine, who had also been the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, seemed like the perfect fit. Apparently, he wasn’t. On Oct. 31, 2011, the company filed for bankruptcy protection and Corzine resigned.
The MF Global CEO left his post on Nov. 4, 2011, after a one year and eight months on the job. A brief tenure, to be sure, but it’s actually not so short-lived when compared to those of some of his contemporaries. A global corporation is no less likely to make questionable executive hiring decisions as the average small business, and CEOs of some major corporations have the short tenures on their resumes to prove it. Click ahead to see some of these here-today-gone-tomorrow CEOs.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 07 December 2011
Tenure: 1 year, 4 months
Gil Amelio joined Apple’s board of directors in 1994. At the time, the company was a shell of its former self and the public perception was the company’s best days were behind it. Nonetheless, Amelio left his position at National Semiconductor and became Apple’s CEO on Feb. 2, 1996.
Apple stock had already been on the decline when Amelio assumed control of the company, but under his watch it reached its lowest point in 12 years. This decline was no fault of Amelio’s. It was caused in large part by a single, anonymous party who had sold 1.5 million shares all at once — and who was later revealed to be none other than former Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
After the stock price had plummeted, Jobs had no trouble convincing the board of directors to let Amelio go, and he was out after 16 turbulent months at the top. Jobs became CEO that September.
Tenure: 1 year, 3 months
For a while there, Boeing just couldn’t catch a break when it came to chief executives. In 2003, CEO Phil Condit resigned amid allegations that the company had stolen documents from its competitors. Boeing replaced Condit by bringing back Harry Stonecipher, who had retired from the company in 2002.
Stonecipher didn’t last long either. One year and three months after taking control of Boeing, he stepped down when an internal investigation revealed he had been involved in an affair with Debra Peabody, a Boeing vice president for operations and commercial activities. At the time, the company’s chairman, Lewis Platt, told BusinessWeek, “We just found some things that we thought reflected poorly on Harry's judgment and would impair his ability to lead the company going forward."
Tenure: 1 year, 2 months
On Oct. 20, 2010, journalist Juan Williams appeared on Fox News and said that he became anxious when he got on an airplane and saw passengers clad in “Muslim garb.” This sort of statement may not be a big deal on Fox News, but Williams was also a contributor to National Public Radio and its CEO, Vivian Schiller, fired him after the politically incorrect comments were made.
Five months later, secretly recorded video footage was released that showed an NPR fundraising executive making his own politically incorrect comments. In this case the unflattering observations concerned the Tea Party movement. NPR, which was struggling with a U.S. Congress that wanted to cut off its funding, just didn’t need the controversy.
Schiller took responsibility for the executive’s statement, telling the New York Times, “I’m the CEO and the buck stops here.” She resigned her post on March 9, 2011, after one year and two months on the job.
Tenure: 1 year
Hewlett-Packard elected Leo Apotheker to the position of CEO on Sept. 30, 2010. He replaced interim CEO Cathie Lesjak, who had taken the reins from Mark Hurd, a controversial figure who had resigned in the wake of sexual-harassment allegations.
Hewlett-Packard’s fortunes declined when Apotheker took over. The company’s stock dropped 40 percent on his watch, thanks to such failed products as the Touchpad, a tablet that was pulled after seven weeks of collecting dust on store shelves. He was ousted just shy of one year after his hire date and replaced by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman.
Tenure: 10 months
Owen Van Natta was at one time chief operating officer at Facebook. He was hired away and began a short-lived position at MySpace in April 2009. At the time, Facebook was in the process of overtaking MySpace as the number one social networking site on the Internet, and Van Natta’s mission was to reboot MySpace as an entertainment-distribution site.
His hiring raised understandable concerns. Would he protect confidential Facebook information while working for its rival? Ultimately, it was a moot point. Van Natta quit in February 2010, just 10 months after he was hired and well before much of anything could be changed.
Tenure: 9 months
When General Motors went bankrupt, its CEO, Rick Wagoner stepped down. On March 31, 2009, he was replaced by Frederick “Fritz” Henderson, a 25-year veteran of the company and its then-current vice president. Here was a man with vast experience and encyclopedic knowledge of the company. Who better to bring it back from the precipice of extinction?
Henderson relished the opportunity. “Being part of a turnaround at GM when, frankly, many people don’t think it can be done is exhilarating, if you like challenges,” the executive told CBC/Radio-Canada. The company repaid the money the U.S. government had used to bail it out, but it still wasn’t enough to save Henderson’s job. He resigned on Dec. 1, 2009, after nine months at the top, and was replaced by Ed Whitacre, Jr.
Tenure: 9 months
Ed Whitacre, Jr., took the reins of GM after Henderson’s resignation. Whitacre was a Renaissance man who had been the chief executive officer of AT&T and the national president of the Boy Scouts of America. He also sat on Exxon Mobil’s board of directors. What he became most famous for, however, was his fondness for discontinuing GM brands, a tendency that earned him the nickname “The GM Reaper.”
Whitacre was all set to preside over the company’s initial public offering, and was personally excited to be on board when GM left its status behind as a government property. Investors were anxious for the company to have a long-term CEO in place before the IPO, however, and Whitacre simply wasn’t interested. He resigned on Sept. 1, 2010, nine months to the day of his appointment. That he was a transitory figure at the company shouldn’t have been much of a surprise as that same year he had famously been quoted by Bloomberg News as saying, “I don’t know anything about cars.”
Tenure: 5 months
Jack Griffin began his tenure as chief executive officer of Time Inc. in September 2010, and became unpopular throughout the company almost immediately. His management style was described as “brusque” and unsuited to the corporate culture. Griffin made frequent and unwelcome references to his religion, and made sexist remarks while addressing the entire company at town hall meetings.
Jeffrey Bewkes, CEO of the parent company, Time Warner, quickly concluded that it wasn’t working out. “Although Jack is an extremely accomplished executive, I concluded that his leadership style and approach did not mesh with Time Inc. and Time Warner,” Bewkes told the New York Times. Griffin left the company a mere five months after his start date.
Tenure: 3 months
Robert Willumstad was chairman of the board of directors for American International Group from 2006 to 2008. On June 15, 2008, he became its CEO. While many people would likely relish the opportunity to head a major financial corporation, he had been handed the controls of what was essentially a sinking ship.
Willumstad succeeded Martin Sullivan, who came in 15th on Portfolio.com’s 2009 list of the worst American CEOs of all time and who had set AIG on its irrevocable path to ruin. As such, Willumstad had the dubious honor of being in charge when the stock price plunged by 97 percent. After that, the federal government took control of the company and bailed it out, and AIG became synonymous with the 2008 financial crisis.
Willumstad was officially out of a job in September 2008, three months after he was hired, although to his credit he refused to accept the $22 million severance package the company offered him.
Tenure: 17 days
A job that lasts only 17 days is normally the province of temporary workers, crab fishermen and department store Santa Clauses. By contrast, being the CEO of a major financial corporation is typically a bit longer. In Alan Fishman’s case, however, two weeks and three days was the duration of his time at the top rung of Washington Mutual’s executive ladder.
Fishman came on as CEO on Sept. 8, 2008, with the unsavory task of having to restructure the company in the wake of the U.S. mortgage crisis. Seventeen days later, the company’s assets were seized and its banking operations were sold to JPMorgan Chase. The day after that, the corporation filed for bankruptcy protection.
The collapse of Washington Mutual was the largest bank failure in U.S. history, and it effectively ended Fishman’s tenure. Don’t cry for Fishman, however: He may not have been with the company long enough to take advantage of its dental benefits, but his severance package of nearly $20 million was the equivalent of receiving more than $1 million per day in compensation, including weekends.