Compiling a list of worst CEOs for 2012 is a daunting task, especially since the field is so vast and the majority of qualified evaluators may not have been CEOs themselves. The task becomes more difficult because each critic has unique reasons for choosing one bad executive over another.
While the critics did not agree on a single worst CEO, four or five were consistently mentioned. Veteran reporters and experts at Business Insider, CNBC and Forbes gave their insights on the worst CEOs for 2012.
The analysts were somewhat consistent in naming Aubrey McClendon of Cheasapeake Energy, Brian Dunn of Best Buy, Andrew Mason of Groupon, Andrea Jung of Avon, Mark Pincus of Zynga, Rodrigo Rato of Bankia (Spain’s major bank) and Ron Johnson of JC Penney.
A Dec. 27 Forbes article featured Susan Adams, a Yale Law School graduate and a Senior Editor at Forbes. She chose Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy as the first in a lineup of twelve terrible CEOs.
While McClendon’s sins are primarily in the personal misconduct area. He resigned in May. McClendon took out a $500 million personal loan and ran a $200 million hedge fund in secret. The hedge fund was a conflict of interest because it traded in energy interests. He also used company property for his personal benefits.
Brian Dunn of Best Buy, Andrea Jung of Avon, Marc Pinkus of Zynga, Rodrigo Rato of Bankia and Ronald Johnson of J.C. Penny rounded out Adam’s top five worst CEOs of 2012.
According to a Dec. 27 article, Business Insider chose Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn as the worst CEO of 2012. In the personal conduct area, he failed by having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, but that was not cited as a reason for choosing him. Brian Dunn’s leadership is associated with declining stock prices, a drop in same store sales and a loss of market share to “more nimble” competitors like Amazon.com. His worst specific business decision was to buy back a total of $6.4 billion in shares without getting much of a return on the money.
These were the reasons given by Sydney Finkelstein, a professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and author of “Why Smart Executives Fail,” Finklestein also chose Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy, Andrea Jung of Avon, Mark Pincus of Zynga and Rodrigo Rato of Bankia, Spain’s major bank.
CNBC had Herb Greenberg’s Dec.18 article. Greenberg has been a financial journalist for 30 years and is a major commentator for CNBC. He chose Andrew Mason of Groupon as the worst CEO and listed others as very close competitors for the position. Greenberg laid on a heavily qualitative approach, citing accounting restatements, a disastrous IPO and dangerously low sales growth as the quantitative reasons for choosing Mason.
Mason’s worst specific action was to take Groupon to an IPO without having the experience or ability to do so. In the personal conduct category, Greenberg cites Mason’s “…goofball antics, which can come off more like a big kid than company leader,”
In a somewhat rambling and disjointed article, Greenberg also named Mark Pincus of Zynga, Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy and Ron Johnson of JC Penney.