Can you imagine how it felt to be the Chief Marketing Officer at Oxfam last month after their deputy CEO, Penny Lawrence, resigned because of a sex crimes scandal? If the first word that enters your mind is “stressed,” that’d be an understatement. A serious CEO scandal can mean the ruination of the reputation of an entire company, not just those at the top.
Unfortunately, situations like these are neither rare, nor unheard of in the corporate realm. Some of the world’s largest and most notable brands – powerhouses many believed to be indestructible – have collapsed under the scrutiny brought on by business scandals. It’s not far-fetched to say that business reputation damage of this magnitude, if improperly managed, can be irreversible. Yet, on a regular basis, almost like clockwork, we hear stories similar to those of Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly, whose careers (and companies) are now plagued by controversy.
It’s easy to become distracted by the disgrace associated with these stories, but why not learn from the misfortunes of these once-successful and untouchable leaders? It’s like that old saying: “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” If there’s anything these stories are great for, it’s not only laying the groundwork for what not to do as the authority figure of a well known business, but also to teach the importance of a solid reputation management strategy.
With that in mind, here’s a run-down of some of the worst, cringe-worthy CEO scandals in recent history:
Harry Stonecipher, Boeing
Few business scandals are as perplexing as that of Harry Stonecipher, the former CEO of one of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturing companies. Stonecipher, who emerged from retirement to take over the company reins in 2003, decided to take over the position after the previous CEO, Paul Condit, was forced out for illegally possessing a competitor’s classified documents. You would think Stonecipher would have taken a more cautious approach, after seeing his precursor leave on such foul terms, but he decided to ignore the affair.
Skip to a few years later, and the mogul was also forced to resign; in 2005, after information regarding an affair with a Boeing employee began to circulate, Stonecipher became the center of attention. Unfortunately, the board felt Stonecipher’s actions went directly against their code of conduct, leaving him with no other option than leaving his position. This is an example of why it pays to learn from the mistakes of your predecessor.
Lockhart Steele, Vox Media
Steele is a classic case of a media industry executive meeting their demise due to a sexual harassment case. After an employee made claims against him in a blog post (without using direct names), Vox Media decided to further investigate the claims. Shortly after, it was announced that Steele was being permanently dismissed from his position.
Later, it was disclosed that multiple women witnessed and experienced inappropriate conduct while in Steele’s company, which ultimately led to him being discharged from the corporation. Vox Media immediately began implementing some damage control, banning …read more
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