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United Airlines isn’t alone: Here are some of the worst corporate PR disasters of all time

Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The United Airlines PR fail is one that has prompted the question of whether CEO Oscar Munoz (pictured) should himself be re-accommodated after a passenger was dragged off an overbooked plane and resulted in a stock price fall for parent company United Continental. But it's not the first time a major corporation has found itself in the middle of a publicity nightmare.

BP’s then CEO Tony Hayward said ‘I want my life back’ during the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill that killed 11

Tony Hayward, then CEO of BP, speaks to reporters at Port Fourchon, Louisiana, during the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster
John Moore | Getty Images

The sinking of oil platform Deepwater Horizon was the worst oil spill ever to hit the U.S. It killed 11, and the share price sank 26 percent between the explosion on April 20 2010 and the same time in 2011. During the crisis, then chief executive Tony Hayward (pictured, center) told reporters: "I want my life back," for which he subsequently apologized.

A jewelry CEO called a product ‘total crap’ and wiped £500m from his company’s value

Gerald Ratner speaks at the Institute of Directors annual convention at the Albert Hall in London, Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Graham Barclay | Blomberg News | Getty Images

When Gerald Ratner addressed the U.K.'s Institute of Directors Annual Convention in 1991, he spoke of a retail recession that his jewelry company seemed to be avoiding, with profits of £120 million ($150 million). He told the audience to go ahead and use his tips for success, as long as they didn't try to compete with him.

But he then went on to describe a sherry decanter with glasses and a tray, on sale for £4.95 at his Ratners jewelry shop.

"People say to me, 'how can you sell this for such a low price? I say, 'because it's total crap,'" he went on to state. His comments wiped an estimated £500 million off the value of the business, and Ratner left the following year. The video of his speech is here and the comment comes at three minutes 30.


Uber’s Travis Kalanick shouted ‘Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own s---,‘ at his own driver, then realized he has to ‘grow up’

Travis Kalanick.
David Orrell | CNBC

In February, Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick had an argument while in the back of…an Uber, telling the driver: "Some people don't like to take responsibility for their own s---. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck."

Then he apologized, saying on the company's website: "It's clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we've received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I've been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it."

A Domino’s Pizza employee put cheese up his nose and pretended to add mucus to a sandwich – and filmed it

Domino's Pizza delivery car
Joe Raedle | Getty Images

In 2009, a Domino's worker pulled a prank: He put cheese up his nose and waved salami by his butt, with some of the cheese ending up in a sandwich. This was all filmed by a colleague who was encouraging him, and ended up on YouTube.

Not great for Domino's at the time, but both workers were fired and Chief Executive Patrick Doyle had to post a video in response, saying: "We're re-examining all our hiring practices to make sure that people like this don't make it into our stores."


Volkswagen was caught cheating on car exhaust pollution tests in the US

The Volkswagen logo is displayed at Serramonte Volkswagen on November 18, 2016 in Colma, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The car manufacturer admitted it had used software to manipulate emissions in September 2015, which forced Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn , wiped billions of euros from its market value and saw sales fall 5 percent that year and 8 percent in 2016. VW has had to spend up to $25 billion in the US on claims from owners, dealers and regulators and is now trying to convince Americans to buy its cars with a six-year warranty.

Krispy Kreme promoted a ‘KKK’ event in the UK

Glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Getty Images

A franchise store in Hull, U.K. advertised an event called "KKK Wednesday," in February 2015. It was meant to stand for Krispy Kreme Klub, but understandably it evoked comparisons to the white supremacist organization. It quickly removed the promotion, apologized, and a spokesperson said: "We do believe this was a completely unintentional oversight on the part of our longtime franchise partners in the U.K."

And finally… swimmer Ryan Lochte damaged his personal brand, and ‘over-exaggerated’ his story about being robbed at gunpoint at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Ryan Lochte
Tom Pennington | Getty Images

Twelve-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte was in bonuses and was banned from competitions until June 2017 after he lied about the extent of a robbery in Rio last year. Local police accused him of making it up as a cover story for the vandalism of a gas station, and the incident caused speculation that he could lose sponsorship deals.