Home The Tech CEO Hall of Shame

The Tech CEO Hall of Shame

In the grand pantheon of disgraced technology company CEOs, the resume blunder of ousted Yahoo Chief Executive Scott Thompson seems almost trivial. Claiming an unearned degree pales in comparison to the true titans of tech transgressions – whose careers were toppled by everything from massive fraud and grand larceny to inappropriate dalliances with underlings. Each imploded in their own particular way, but all their stories come mixed with heaping helpings of arrogance and a dollop of coverup.

Here’s your chance to meet the real world of Horrible Bosses, and get a glimpse of how they were rewarded – or occasionally punished – for behaving badly:

Scott Thompson, Former Yahoo CEO

Scott Thompson was at Yahoo’s helm only five months before getting the boot for claiming to have a computer science degree from a college that didn’t offer one at the time. While a charitable observer might say he never lied, Thompson also never explained how that erroneous info got on his work bio. Nevertheless, the untruth gave investor activist Dan Loeb just what he needed in his proxy battle to stack the Yahoo board with his supporters. Thompson was given the heave-ho this month and Loeb, who runs the hedge fund Third Point, got the board seats. Thompson didn’t leave empty handed. While he missed out on a severance package, he did walk away with $7 million in bonuses from the struggling Internet portal.

Brian Dunn, Former Best Buy CEO

Brian Dunn stepped down in April as chief executive of electronics retailer Best Buy for what the company later called an “extremely close personal relationship” with a female employee more than 20 years younger. The 51-year-old Dunn did not use company resources in his “friendship,” which included lunch and drinks during the workweek and on weekends. The pair also seemed to stay in touch a lot. During two separate trips abroad for a total of nine days, Dunn contacted his “friend” by mobile phone at least 224 times. In the end, the board found that Dunn’s behavior violated company policy, yet he was still entitled to some big bucks. His separation package totaled $6.6 million.

Mark Hurd, Former Hewlett-Packard CEO

Mark Hurd resigned in August 2010 as chief executive of tech giant Hewlett-Packard following a dalliance with a contract employee who later accused Hurd of sexual harassment. While investigating the allegations, the HP board found that Hurd had doctored expense reports in order to hide his personal relationship with marketing consultant Jodie Fisher, a former soft-core porn actress. Fisher denied the relationship with the married Hurd was sexual. She settled privately with Hurd and both sides agreed not to discuss the affair. Hurd left HP with $12.2 million in severance and enough stock to earn millions more – and was immediately hired by his friend Larry Ellison as co-president, director and board member of Oracle.

David Edmondson, Former RadioShack CEO

David Edmondson resigned in February 2006 as CEO of electronics retailer RadioShack after lying about his education. Edmondson topped Yahoo’s Thompson by claiming to have two college degrees when he had none. The CEO apologized for the “embarrassment” he brought to the company. RadioShack’s hometown newspaper, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, broke the story, reporting Edmondson never graduated from the unaccredited bible college he attended. The newspaper also found that the CEO was facing a trial on his third arrest on drunk-driving charges. Edmondson left the company with a severance payment of less than $1 million in cash.

Sanjay Kumar, Former Computer Associates CEO

Sanjay Kumar, ex-CEO of IT management software and solutions company Computer Associates, pleaded guilty in 2006 to his role in a $2.2 billion accounting fraud. He also admitted to interfering with a federal investigation by authorizing a payment of $3.7 million to silence a potential witness. Kumar, who was once a part owner of the New York Islanders hockey team, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, which he started serving in 2007. Computer Associates, which later changed its name to CA Technologies, paid more than $225 million to a shareholder restitution fund. Kumar contributed about $20 million from his own assets.

John Rigas, Founder, Former CEO of Adelphia Communications

After leading Adelphia Communications for more than five decades, Chief Executive John Rigas was sentenced in 2005 to 15 years in prison in a multibillion-dollar fraud case that collapsed the company he founded. Rigas and his son Timothy Rigas, who was Adelphia’s chief financial officer, were convicted of 18 felony counts of fraud and conspiracy. The younger Rigas got 20 years in prison. The Rigases were convicted of stealing $100 million from Adelphia, which had been the fifth-largest cable company in the nation. They also were found guilty of conspiring to hide $2.3 billion in company debt.

Bernard Ebbers, Former CEO of WorldCom

Bernard Ebbers was sentenced in 2005 to 25 years in prison for leading the nation’s largest-ever corporate fraud. The former chief executive of telecom carrier WorldCom was convicted of nine felonies in an $11 billion accounting scandal at the company. When WorldCom filed for bankruptcy in 2002, it was the largest in U.S. history and led to shareholders and employees losing billions of dollars. Ebbers forfeited the bulk of his assets to burned WorldCom investors. Those assets included a Mississippi mansion and other holdings worth as much as $45 million. The day before his sentencing, Ebbers called the predicament he was in “bizarre.”

Robert McCormick, Former CEO of Savvis Communications

Robert McCormick resigned in 2005 as chief executive of IT infrastructure management outfit Savvis Communications (now owned by CenturyLink) after it was revealed that he spent $241,000 entertaining business associates at a Manhattan strip club. The company’s board might have looked the other way, if McCormick hadn’t used his corporate charge card to pay for lap dances and then claim to be a victim of fraud when American Express demanded its money. Dubbed the “The Lap Dunce” by The New York Daily News, McCormick never submitted an expense report for the party at Scores. The company claimed it did not pay for McCormick’s night out on the town.

Joe Nacchio, Former CEO of Qwest

One-time Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio was convicted in 2007 of 19 counts of insider trading and was sentenced to nearly six years in prison. Nacchio was convicted of selling $52 million in stock in 2001 after it became known internally that the telecom carrier (also now owned by CenturyLink) was in danger of missing sales forecasts. Nacchio, who resigned in 2002, was ordered to forfeit almost $46 million and pay a $19 million fine. In 2011, Nacchio sued his lawyers from prison, claiming they were negligent. He also accused them of overbilling, pointing to charges that included lawyers’ underwear purchases.

Gregory Reyes, Former CEO of Brocade

Gregory Reyes was convicted in 2007 in a stock options backdating scandal at networking solutions vendor Brocade and received a 21-month prison term. The conviction was later overturned and the ex-CEO was retried. Prosecutors won again and he was sentenced in 2010 to 18 months in prison. At his second sentencing hearing, Reyes broke down crying, and his attorney had to read his statement for him. At his second criminal trial, Reyes blamed the company’s outside counsel, which he claimed signed off on the backdating of stock options. The judge at the sentencing hearing didn’t buy the argument, saying that, at some point, people have to take responsibility for what they say and do.

Thompson photo courtesy of Yodel Anecdotal. Raju image via World Economic Forum/Flickr.

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