Married couple Steve and Elaine Wynn founded Wynn Resorts in 2002. Based in Nevada, the casino and hotel chain currently owns properties in Las Vegas, Everett in Massachusetts, and Macau. The relationship between Steve and Elaine turned sour – twice (the couple divorced in 1986, remarried, and got divorce again in 2010) – and the ownership of the family brand proved a sticking point during divorce proceedings. When Elaine sued Wynn Resorts to sell her stake in the company in 2012, she was removed from the board. And less than a decade later, Steve was removed too.
Steve, pictured here with his second wife Andrea, has been no stranger to legal issues. In 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that a number of women had accused the casino mogul of sexual misconduct, including a manicurist whom Steve is believed to have paid a $7.5 million (£5.5m) settlement. Wynn Resorts was investigated and fined, as regulators decided that the company had turned a blind eye to the claims. In response, Steve – who has always denied the allegations – resigned and was swiftly replaced as CEO by Matt Maddox. From 31 January 2022, Craig Billings will replace Maddox, who sold off 20,000 company shares in December 2021.
Together with his brother Charles, Maurice Saatchi co-founded advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi in 1970. It went on to become the biggest ad agency in the world by 1986, after a period of acquiring lots of other agencies, with 600 offices around the world. However, in 1987 the agency saw its value drop by a third in a single day when the stock market crashed. This heralded a period of financial difficulty, and in 1993 Charles was voted off the board, and given an honorary VP title. Both brothers were then asked to leave the firm's offices in Mayfair, London, and so Charles resigned in 1994, followed by Maurice in January 1995. The duo then founded M&C Saatchi in 1995, taking with them a number of key clients including the Mirror newspaper group, British Airways, and the UK Conservative Party.
However, the trouble didn't end there for the Saatchi brothers. In March 2019, employees had discovered some accounting irregularities following the departure of Chief Financial Officer Jamie Hewitt. After a review by PwC, the board announced on 4 December 2019 that the total charges for the accounting errors would be £11.6 million ($15m). On 10 December, just six days later, Maurice Saatchi and three other directors announced they would be leaving the company.
But things weren't always so rosy. In 1983, Jobs hired the former PepsiCo head-honcho John Sculley as CEO. The move backfired and eventually led to a dispute about the future direction of the company. Although it’s widely reported Jobs was sacked from Apple in 1985, the board of directors actually sided with Sculley and restricted Jobs’ duties, which led to him quitting Apple. Ultimately, Sculley failed in his attempts to make Apple successful, Jobs was later rehired, and the rest is history.
Papa Johns is the fourth largest pizza franchise in America. The company was founded by John Schnatter and the first-ever branch was established out of a broom closet in his father’s tavern in Jeffersonville, Indiana in 1984. It currently operates in over 5,000 locations across the world and is a household name.
Papa Johns has long been a supporter and sponsor of the NFL. So it was probably an ill-advised move for Schnatter to comment on the NFL's leadership over the 2017 national anthem protests. Schnatter was quoted as saying: “Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.” The instant backlash across social media caused the company's share price to drop 30% and forced Schnatter to resign from his post as CEO. He was then forced to resign as chairman too following reports he'd used a racial slur on a conference call. When Papa John's rebranded as 'Papa Johns', without the possessive apostrophe in its name, in November 2021, Schnatter was none too pleased, saying: "Pap Johns should be obsessed with making quality pizza consistently and not obsessed with Papa John. Try as they may, they can't have Papa Johns without Papa John."
There was a time, before Apple entered the fray, when a Blackberry phone was the most desirable in the marketplace, sported by celebrities and a fashion accessory for many. Mike Lazaridis is credited for founding Blackberry Limited, formerly known as Research in Motion, back in 1984.
Lazaridis stepped down as Blackberry’s co-CEO in 2012, following months of pressure from shareholders and a drop in its share price, as the firm was losing its smartphone market share to the likes of Apple and Samsung. Blackberry is yet to regain ground and has fallen behind its competitors, but experienced a resurgence of interest when it became a meme stock in January 2021. The company now specialises in enterprise security systems; however it did announce that it would be launching a new smartphone before the end of the year.
Entrepreneur Dov Charney started the clothing firm American Apparel back in 1989. The company was one of North America’s leading apparel manufacturers for over 30 years until it filed for bankruptcy in 2015.
In 2014, Charney was suspended on alleged misconduct charges. The Wall Street Journal reported that he would sometimes be seen “wandering around his factory in his underpants”. He was fired from his position as CEO and, after the company officially exited bankruptcy in 2016, it severed all ties with him. The firm has enjoyed a resurgence in recent times and currently has an all-female board of directors. Charney, meanwhile, has gone on to found competitor Los Angeles Apparel.
Chesapeake Energy was initially founded in 1989 by Aubrey McClendon and Tom L Ward in Oklahoma City with an initial investment of $50,000. The firm’s expertise was in hydrocarbon exploration. The company was valued at $25 million when it went public in 1992. That's the equivalent of $45.9 million (£35m) in today's money.
In fact the late Aubrey McClendon was once the highest-paid CEO of all the S&P 500 Chief Executives. However, this wasn't to last and even though he was extremely successful for more than two decades, shareholders turned on him and rejected his direction for the company. He was forced to step down as chairman in 2012 and then resigned as CEO in 2013 as allegations of questionable business practices and self-serving were raised. He died in a car crash in 2016, a day after he was charged with conspiring to rig bids for oil and gas leases.
When Jerry Yang co-founded Yahoo back in 1995 with David Filo, they changed the face of internet search engines forever. The exponential growth of Yahoo was meteoric, seeing the company being valued at almost $22 billion by the year 2000.
But as Yahoo struggled to contend with Google’s dominance, while also turning down a monumental bid of $44.6 billion from Microsoft, Yang (pictured right) began to come under criticism from all quarters. He was forced to resign from his CEO position in 2009. However, he did remain on the board of directors until 2012 when he finally cut the umbilical cord with the company he co-founded.
The JetBlue Airways Corporation was formed in 1998 by former Southwest Airlines employee David Neeleman. The low-cost airline is currently the ninth largest in North America, according to USA by Numbers, and serves over 100 destinations across the USA, Central and South America, Mexico and even the Caribbean.
Although JetBlue was one of the few airlines to actually make a profit after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the firm experienced financial woes in 2007. Concerns of reliability, particularly following an ice storm on Valentine's Day 2007 which led to nearly 1,200 flight cancellations, negatively affected the firm’s reputation and the writing was on the wall for Neeleman. He was pushed out of his position and replaced by David Barger in 2008. However, that's not the end of the story for Neeleman. He went on to found Brazils's Azul Airlines, and he has also launched a new US airline called Breeze, which became operational in July 2021.
Lululemon was founded by Chip Wilson in Vancouver in 1998 and quickly became a cult yoga brand particularly popular with young women. At its IPO in 2007, the company raised $327.6 million by selling 18.2 million shares, then in 2013 it appeared on Fortune's Fastest-Growing Companies list for the third year in a row. There are currently 460 Lululemon stores across the world.
However, founder Chip Wilson has become infamous for his controversial comments, including stating that the company did not make plus-size clothing because it was too expensive, and also for telling Bloomberg in a TV interview in late 2013 that some women's bodies were wrong for the clothing. Following the negative press these comments generated, Wilson resigned as chairman in 2014 and stepped down from the board of directors in 2015.
The online marketplace for makers and crafters Etsy was founded in 2005 by bookseller Rob Kalin and two close friends, Chris Maguire and Haim Schoppik, who wanted to create a platform for people to sell handmade items online. The company was founded in Kalin’s Brooklyn apartment and it quickly rose to success, reaching 1.7 million sales on the site by early 2007. By 2014 gross sales had reached a huge $1.93 billion (£1.47bn).
However, all was not so rosy at the top. Kalin (pictured) left in 2008, and Chad Dickerson from Yahoo took his place. However, Kalin returned in 2009, until he was eventually fired and permanently replaced by Dickerson in 2011. It’s been speculated that Kalin was booted out of the top position for some unconventional views he shared publicly, including allegedly saying, “I speak to people in the business world and the technology world, but I don't admire them.” Etsy went on to be floated on the stock market for $3.4 billion (£2.6bn) in April 2015.
Micro-blogging platform Twitter was originally created in 2006 by Noah Glass, Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone. By 2012, Twitter had become an online institution with more than 100 million daily users and over 340 million tweets per day.
While Dorsey is a tech poster boy, it hasn't all been plain sailing for the Missouri native. In 2008, he was forced out of his CEO position due to a reputation for bad management, an increasing party lifestyle and a lack of communication with investors. In 2010, Dorsey launched a whisper campaign with Twitter board members in an attempt to remove the firm’s CEO Evan Williams. The attempt was successful and saw Dorsey reinstated as CEO in 2015. In November 2021, Dorsey announced his resignation again, handing over the reigns to Twitter's chief technology office Parag Agrawal. "There aren't many companies that get to this level," Dorsey wrote in an open resignation letter to his employees. "And there aren't many founders that choose their company over their own ego."
As CEO, Andrew Mason (pictured) was famous for his brutal honesty, which continually got him in trouble, especially when Groupon went public. In 2013, Mason wrote a farewell letter that began with the immortal words: “I was fired today.” The Groupon stock price had dramatically plummeted from $19 (£15) to $5 (£4) in a single year. Groupon needed a CEO that could resurrect the firm, and Mason wasn’t the guy. Don’t cry for Mason though – he still has a reported net worth of around $200 million (£153m).
GitHub was formed in 2008 in San Francisco by Tom Preston-Werner, Chris Wanstrath, Scott Chacon, and P J Hyett. It's now the world’s leading software platform and a web-based hosting service that is mostly used for computer code. Since then, the company has acquired 40 million users and more than 100 million repositories.
In 2014, co-founder Preston-Werner resigned from his executive position at the firm due to sexual harassment allegations. At the time, Tech Hub released a report that allegedly came from a former employee who said that the environment at GitHub was one of sexism and intimidation. Preston-Werner left the company while the remaining leaders vowed to tackle the problems. In June 2018, Microsoft announced it would be buying Github for a reported $7.5 billion (£5.7bn).
Taxi-hailing service Uber was originally founded in San Francisco in 2009 by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp. The pair were close friends and came up with the idea when visiting the 2008 LeWeb tech conference in Paris.
In 2017, Kalanick announced his resignation as Uber CEO. In a year of scandals for the company, which included sexual harassment cases where 20 employees were fired, Kalanick was under increasing pressure from five of Uber’s largest investors due to the way he handled the cases and his leadership style. Although he was forced to step down as CEO, he remained on the company’s board of directors until December 2019.
But in 2019 it all came crashing down for WeWork. The company filed its IPO in August, which led its financing to come under question – and its CEO. It turned out that the company had been making huge losses. As a result, SoftBank, its biggest investor, took over the reins of the company in October. SoftBank reportedly handed Neuman $1.7 billion (£1.3bn) to step down from his position as chairman of the board. WeWork saw its valuation drop to just $2.9 billion (£2.2bn) at the end of March 2020, down from $7.3 billion (£5.6bn) in December 2019. In May 2020, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has said that he was "foolish" to invest in the business, after having to cut more than 8,000 jobs at the firm since January. But the company has staged a resurgence through its recent partnership with Saks Fifth Avenue, which will see WeWork operate co-working spaces in disused areas of Saks stores.
However, Zenefits came under investigation when it was alleged that Conrad had created software that allowed brokers to cheat on the licensing process. It was probed by regulators in both Washington and California. Allegations that Zenefits was out of control and akin to a ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ environment meant that Conrad had to resign as CEO. Zenefits still exists, with a new CEO, but its valuation dropped from $4.5 billion (£3.4bn) to $2 billion (£1.5bn) in 2016.
However, in 2020, the company’s reputation was tarnished by a fraud scandal. An investigative firm called Muddy Waters published a detailed report on Twitter showing that the company had inflated sales figures. Following an internal probe which revealed fake, inflated annual sales of $300 million (£231m), co-founder and chairman Charles Zhengyao Lu was ousted from the company and replaced by Jinyi Guo.
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