They say that there's no such thing as bad publicity, but for executives that took their lumps in the public eye, celebrity status can be a big problem. Still, even the most publicly unpopular CEOs have found success after leaving the firms that brought them notoriety.
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Generally speaking, there are two factors that put business behemoths in the public crosshairs: poor performance and a hefty compensation package.
Right or wrong, as the de facto face of his or her firm, the public perception of a CEO's performance is highly correlated with the company's share price. When times are good, sage chief execs are paraded; when times are tough, investors resent the generous pay packages they're shelling out for languishing returns.
But when a company hits the skids at the hands of a handsomely rewarded CEO, a change of job isn't often far away. So, what's next for blacklisted businesspeople? Here's a look at what some of the business world's most controversial former execs are doing now. (Find out how to assess whether a CEO is worth his or her pay; read Lifting The Lid On CEO Compensation.)
- Tony Hayward (CEO, BP)
It's hard to bring up unpopular CEOs without talking about Tony Hayward. The BP (NYSE:BP) chief holds the distinction of being the sole CEO on this list who's still in his job. Hayward announced that he'll be stepping down from the helm of the energy giant on October 1.
It's been a tough few months for Hayward. After BP's tragic Deepwater Horizon disaster earlier this year, the chief exec was thrust into the spotlight, only to make a series of serious media gaffes that caught international criticism. President Barack Obama went so far as to say that Hayward's performance on the PR front was enough to justify firing him, a sentiment that a growing group of shareholders agreed with.
So, what's Hayward planning to do following his October resignation? Sources say that he'll be offered a role at TNK-BP, the Russian BP-backed venture that Hayward was CEO of until he took over at its parent company in 2008.
- Carly Fiorina (ex-CEO, Hewlett Packard)
It's hard to bounce back from being named one of the "20 Worst CEOs of All Time," but that's exactly what former HP (NYSE:HPQ) CEO Carly Fiorina is attempting to do with her political career. As HP's CEO, Fiorina was applauded as one of the most powerful women in business - until massive layoffs and a poorly executed merger with Compaq prompted her resignation in 2005. She left the company with a $21 million severance package.
Today, Carly Fiorina is running as the republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in California, and maintains speaking and media engagements.
- Dick Fuld (ex-CEO, Lehman Brothers)
Ex-Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld is no stranger to taking blame - in fact, he's shouldered much of the blame for the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 thanks in part to his company's massive bets and ultimate bankruptcy. But Fuld may be one of the few CEOs who doesn't walk away unscathed; ongoing investigations into Lehman's collapse have some Wall Street insiders believing that he may still be the target of criminal charges. Until then, it remains speculation.
In the mean time, there's evidence that suggests Fuld, who's been lying low of late, could be staging a comeback in the financial world. Fuld has been working at a mysterious firm called Legend Securities, though it's been speculated that it may just be to keep his FINRA license active. We'll probably hear more from Fuld soon. (For more, see Case Study: The Collapse Of Lehman Brothers.)
- Rick Wagoner (ex-CEO, General Motors)
As the CEO of storied car stock General Motors, Rick Wagoner no doubt sought a way to leave his mark on the company. Losing $82 billion of shareholder value during his tenure and bringing the world's former auto titan to bankruptcy likely wasn't it.
But Wagoner too is making a comeback. The former car company chief made news this month when it was announced that he'd be joining the board of Aleris, a privately held aluminum producer. Wagoner should feel right at home; the company emerged from bankruptcy protection earlier this summer.
Too Many CEOs, Too Little Time
The credit crunch of 2008 provided plenty of job-hopping among corporate executives. With the markets settling down once again, expect even the most unemployable CEOs to step into new jobs in 2010 - after all, their unemployment benefits won't last forever. (For more, check out Pages From The Bad CEO Playbook.)
Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: Who Is The Next Buffett?