The power to make a whole lot of money doesn’t necessarily equate with sound judgement. In fact, there are plenty of cases where seemingly upstanding philanthropic gentlemen go off the rails and seem to temporarily lose their sanity.
Whether it be your political opinions, your stance on the genders or your work ethic, if you’re a rich and powerful man it seems you’re an easy target for misunderstanding and media backlash – and if the men on this list are anything to go by, you’re better off just keeping controversial opinions to yourself. In some particularly disastrous cases, businesses started from the bottom up have almost fallen into disrepair because CEOs sounded off their unpopular opinions.
Perhaps a sense of entitlement attendant to wealth gives these people a mistaken impression of being immune to criticism or public backlash – making the mistake of forgetting that their money comes from customers, and customers can easily decide to stop buying a product if they don’t agree with the company’s ideals.
Maybe the public relations people the following 10 men (some of the world’s richest and even most powerful) employ took the day off. In any case, these are the instances where the 1 percenters have had to try and cover their tracks after seriously controversial statements hit the headlines.
10. Donald sterling
LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling is the obvious example here. He was recorded making racist remarks to his “mistress” V. Stiviano and what resulted was a firestorm of controversy and his hasty banishment from the league. The commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, orchestrated his quick exit and is currently in the process of getting Mr. Sterling to sell the team. Donald Sterling tried for a TV appearance to make amends and apologize for his remarks. Instead, his interview with Anderson Cooper only made things worse as he made more disparaging remarks against Magic Johnson.
9. Mitt Romney
Was Mitt even thinking about any of the crazy things he said during his election? Or was he just reading from a prompter? Mitt Romney said many strange and downright ridiculous things during his unsuccessful bid for the 2012 presidency. His infamous rant against the 47% got him into a lot of trouble. When describing almost half of the country’s people and their economic status, he said “It’s not my job to worry about those people.” Another statement he made that would haunt him during the campaign was when he described the benefits of private insurance companies. His summation of why they’re better was delivered with typical Romney eloquence “”I like being able to fire people who provide services to me”. Enjoy your retirement from the public eye, Mr. Romney.
8. Dan Cathy
Dan Cathy is the Chief Operating Officer of popular restaurant chain Chick-fil-A. When the Supreme Court struck down the “Defence of Marriage Act”, an act which had helped to bar same-sex marriage, Cathy had this to say: “Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: cornerstone of strong societies.” His statements were clearly homophobic, and as a result many cities and companies decried him and his company. San Francisco’s mayor tweeted about the restaurant shortly after saying, “Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.” If Chick-fil-A wants to stay in the chicken biz, they might reconsider whether they want a leader who spouts hateful sentiments against a proportion of American citizens…
7. Pat Sajak
Pat Sajak is the long-running host of the popular game show Wheel of Fortune. On May 19, 2014 he made a remark on Twitter that caused uproar on the social media site and around the media as well. His controversial tweet read “I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends. Good night.”
For most educated people, the science is pretty reliable on the truth of global warming, so it’s no surprise that people were quick to criticize and shame the long-time host as being “ignorant”. He later said his statements were made in jest, but he’s had a hard time fanning the fires over his remarks. This controversy goes to show the power of a social medium like Twitter, and demonstrates that any remark can be universally scrutinized, publicized and potentially misconstrued. Mr Sajak should probably stick to helping contestants make the decision of whether or not to buy a vowel.
6. Paul Tudor Jones
One of the richest and most respected investors in the world made a public faux pas when he talked about women in the hedge-fund industry. The head of Investment Corp had to apologize when he said that new mothers were less motivated and lacked the concentration necessary to be great traders. His exact choice of words were even more explicit, saying “You will never see as many great women investors or traders as men, period, end of story… As soon as that baby’s lips touch that girl’s bosom, forget it.” Not exactly tasteful.
5. Chip Wilson
It goes to show that even if you create a successful company and instil it with your positive ideals, you can still be thrown aside by the pressure of consumer outrage. The founder and CEO of Lululemon made a series of bad statements last year. When describing why there were recent complaints about the material of Lululemon’s expensive yoga pants ripping, he shared his point of view on the subject. “Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it.” He indicated that women who don’t have the required ‘thigh gap’ probably shouldn’t wear the popular yoga pants. The underlying suggestion is that the product is meant for people who are already fit and healthy. Wilson announced his departure one month after he made the controversial statements.
4. Sam Zell
This billionaire real estate magnate has had a history of putting his foot in his mouth. Zell displayed his notoriously hot temper when he yelled at a female reporter, saying “F you” after she questioned him about the softening of news. When she described a situation where reporters were being incentivized to report on light subjects like puppies instead of doing “hard news,” Zell responded with, “you’re giving me the classic… journalistic arrogance of deciding that puppies don’t count.” He bought the Tribune company in 2000 in an effort to revitalize the publishing industry – one wonders if the newspaper industry can rebound with guys like Zell at the helm.
3. Mike Jeffries
Mike Jeffries is the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch. He go into trouble when he described his philosophy of who should wear A&F clothing and what the brand represents. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong”. These statements got Jefferies into hot water and the company almost removed him as CEO.
His store’s hiring practices also came across as quite alienating. “That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people.” He managed to weather the storm and stay on as CEO, but the stigma around Abercrombie and Fitch lingers.
2. Michael O’Leary
The CEO of popular European airline Ryanair has made numerous outrageous statements that have led him into legal trouble. When asked about a passenger who was charged for forgetting to print her boarding pass, he described the individual as “‘stupid’ and stated that it is right passengers be charged £60 a time to have one printed at the check-in desk because it is their ‘**** up”.
1. Sheldon Adelson
This billionaire suggested that the United States nuke the Iranian desert, just to show them that “we mean business”. A Casino magnate, he poured $100 million into Republican causes and adverts belittling democrats in order to try and beat Obama during the 2012 campaign. In Obama’s own words, he said of Adelson “you’ve got to really dislike me to spend that kind of money”. Obama later quipped, “He would have been better off just offering me $100 million to drop out of the race.” This guy might want some sort of guidance on what he should spend his money on if he doesn’t want to waste many more hundreds of millions of dollars.