Register free for our breaking news email alerts with analysis and cutting edge commentary from our award winning team. Registration only takes a minute.

'Beer swilling' punters to 'bonehead' analysts; 10 CEO gaffes

Ten of the greatest CEO gaffes in corporate history

Maverick comments from outspoken CEOs are the stuff of legend, but with a slew of recent verbal gaffes from CEOs such as Elon Musk and Sainsbury's Mike Coupe we thought it would be a good time to collect the greatest hits.

Here are 10 of the biggest CEO gaffes of the past 20 years.

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.

Maverick comments from outspoken CEOs are the stuff of legend, but with a slew of recent verbal gaffes from CEOs such as Elon Musk and Sainsbury's Mike Coupe we thought it would be a good time to collect the greatest hits.

Here are 10 of the biggest CEO gaffes of the past 20 years.

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.

Elon Musk - Tesla

Tesla boss and founder Elon Musk is as much PT Barnum as he is boardroom, and has never shied away from injecting his personality into his business affairs. 

The plunge in Tesla's price last week after an irate results call, in which he dismissed questioners as ‘boring’ and their questions ‘boneheaded’, suggests capital markets may be finding his shtick is wearing thin, however

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.

Mike Ashley - SportsDirect

As majority owner of Sports Direct, Ashley is able to regularly shoot from the hip in ways that would see off more conventional CEOs.

In a strong field probably his most prominent gaffe to date came in 2016 during a visit to a SportsDirect factory, where employees on zero hour contracts earn minimum wage.

Ashley produced a wad of £50 notes when he emptied his pockets to go through the same searches staff members are asked to undergo ahead of each shift at its Shirebrook warehouse.

He commented: ‘I’ve been to the casino, don’t print that’.

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.

Mike Coupe - Sainsbury's

Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe was forced to apologise last week for singing ‘we’re in the money’ live, between TV interviews about the firm’s contentious proposed merger with Asda.

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.

Gerald Ratner - Ratners Group (now the Signet Group)

So famous was Gerald Ratner’s infamous gaffe during a speech to the Institute of Directors in 1991 that he became a verb.

‘Doing a Ratner’ so elegantly encapsulated all that we love in a CEO gaffe that is now a universally recognised shorthand for the form.

With a frankness he would later publically regret he admitted: 'People say, "How can you sell this for such a low price?" I say, ‘because it's total crap.'

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.

Matt Barrett - Barclays

Barrett, at the time CEO of Barclays, while giving evidence to Commons admitted that: ‘I do not borrow on credit cards. I have four young children. I give them advice not to pile up debts on their credit cards.’

He also admitted he did not use credit cards from his own subsidiary, Barclaycard, because it was simply too expensive

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.

Tony Hayward - BP CEO

During a press conference following the BP Golf oil spill Hayward said: ‘There is no one who want to solve this oil spill more than I do, I just want my life back.’

The admission, not long after a number of people lost their lives in a accident an independent investigation concluded had been caused by inadequate safety procedures, was considered embarrassing enough it was awarded the backhanded accolade of inclusion in a South Park episode.

 

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.

Jeffrey Skilling  - Enron

Shortly before the business collapsed in a cloud of  accounting fraud, Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling called an analyst an ‘a*** hole’ on a public call for his insolent doubt of the company's bona fides.

Highfields Capital analyst Richard Grubman had pointed out: ‘You’re the only financial institution that can’t produce a balance sheet or cash flow statement with their earnings.'

‘You … you … you,’ Skilling replied. ‘Well, uh … thank you very much. We appreciate it. A*** hole.’

The episode was one of the key events leading to the unravelling of the accounting abnormalities which would lead to Enron’s collapse.

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.

David Shepherd - Arcadia Group

A senior director at Topman in 2002, Shepherd described the firm's target audience as ‘beer-swilling hooligans’.

He added: ‘Very few of our customers have to wear suits to work. They'll be for his first interview or first court appearance.’

It didn’t stop Arcadia promoting Shepherd to chief operating officer of the group in 2015.

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.

Alain Levy  - EMI

Finnish musicians had their egos bashed when in 2002 the then CEO of one of the biggest record companies in the world, Alain Levy, joked about the country’s musical talents, or lack thereof.

He explained that EMI was cutting its roster of artists from the country and 1,800 job losses.

He said: 'We have streamlined the artist roster, which I found fairly bloated. For example, we had 49 artists in Finland and I don't think there are 49 Finns who can sing.'

 

 

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.

Kenneth Cole - Kenneth Cole

When the Arab Spring took hold in Egypt in 2011, the uprisings made headlines around the world.

While many people got on the revolution bandwagon, fashion designer Kenneth Cole decided that the uprising and the resulting press momentum represented the perfect vehicle to promote his clothing collection.

Cole tweeted "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.
Your Business: Cover Star Club

Profile: Kevin Doran's formula for success at AJ Bell

Profile: Kevin Doran's formula for success at AJ Bell

From a degree in theoretical physics to teaching and becoming one of the youngest chief investment officers in the UK, Kevin Doran has certainly had an interesting career.

Wealth Manager on Twitter