Saturday, October 5, 2013

CEOs Say the Darnedest, Dumbest Things

Remember a couple of weeks ago when Guido Barilla, CEO of the Barilla pasta empire, said something really dumb?

Here’s a recap, ICYMI:

"I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don't agree with them,” Barilla said in an interview with Italian radio station Radio 24. “Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role. … [If gays] like our pasta and our advertising, they’ll eat our pasta; if they don’t like it, then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand.”

He's not the only honcho with foot-in-mouth disease. Here are the dumbest things that 20 other CEOs have said.

Let’s hope pasta is not prologue. Stop saying dumb things, CEOs.


“[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. We don’t market to anyone other than that. … A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong.”
—Abercrombie & Fitch CEO/Jocelyn Wildenstein impersonator Mike Jeffries

“[In England], the food is terrible and the women are not very attractive. Here in Chicago, the food is good, and you are known for good-looking women.”
—Former Burger King CEO Bernardo Hees in a 2011 talk at the University of Chicago

 “Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him nothing as far as I’m concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.”
—Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza in indignant response to a complaint from a first-time customer (which he accidentally also emailed to the customer himself)

“We think Mrs. McLeod should pay … for being so stupid.”
—Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary in response to customer who complained about being charged $375 dollars to print out boarding passes

“They trust me … dumb fucks.”
—Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in IM to a friend about early users of his social media site

·       “Customers do not want online games." 
·       Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata
"There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." 
—DEC CEO Ken Olsen


Really, the entire memo to his employees is a must-read, especially if you’re seen The Queen of Versailles, but this quote in particular from Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel is amazing:

“When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I, unfortunately, do not have that freedom.”
—Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel

“We didn’t know who to hire. I wouldn’t be able to recognize a good technology person — anyone with a good bullshit story would have gotten past me.”
—Former Universal Music Group CEO Doug Morris regarding the music industry’s myopia about the threat of MP3s (and his own total cluelessness about technology)

“I know what I don’t know, and to this day I don’t know technology, and I don’t know accounting and finance.”
—Former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers

“This is not the Soviet Union. This is the United States of America. That’s what I remember. Guess what ... it’s a free. Fucking. Country.”
—Chase CEO Jamie Dimon regarding people blaming big banks for the financial crisis

“I, like you, get a little incensed when you think about how much all of you do, whether it’s volunteer hours, charitable giving we do, serving clients and customers well. [Critics] ought to think a little about that before [they] start yelling at us.”
—Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan at a 2011 employee meeting discussing all the “haters”

“[The uproar over bonuses] was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitchforks and their hangman nooses and all that — sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.”
—AIG CEO Robert Benmosche comparing public outrage over AIG awarding bonuses to its executives to lynchings in the South

“Today, with cameras as pervasive as they are, there’s no such thing really as professional photographers.”
—Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer at 2013 press conference

 “I always say counterfeits, we’re happier to have them than not have them. Don’t you think it’s sad for a brand that no one wants to copy them? … [Something] else about counterfeits is that they provide a source of labor and income for lots of other people. So maybe they’re not totally bad.”
—Prada CEO Patrizio Bertelli on Bloomberg Television

 “Nevertheless, whilst [smoking] is addictive, it is not that hard to quit.”
—Former Philip Morris CEO Louis C. Camilleri’s statement while addressing a 2011 shareholder’s meeting

“I’m sleeping well at night knowing this was not a serious matter.”*
—American Apparel CEO Dov Charney in response to outcry about American Apparel capitalizing on Hurricane Sandy by holding sales for “bored” customers in states affected by the natural disaster

“The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution. [The] other view says water is a foodstuff like any other, and like any other foodstuff, it should have a market [value]. Personally, I think it’s better to give foodstuff a market value.”**
—Nestl√© CEO Peter Brabeck
** Note: Nestlé has gone to great lengths to clear up the context of this statement. Do with it what you will.

“We’re sorry for the massive disruption it’s caused their lives. There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.”
Former BP CEO Tony Hayward when asked what he had to say to Louisiana residents affected by the largest commercial marine oil spill in U.S. history

“I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest.”
Hayward during a Sky News interview about the disaster

“Yeah, of course I am.”
Hayward to Forbes magazine when asked if he’s sleeping well at night

“Groups with guitars are on the way out.”
Dick Rowe, Decca Records executive, after hearing the Beatles audition in 1962

Credits:;;; Yahoo Finance/Magnolia Pictures; Perez Hilton


  1. I see Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, the proud spokesperson for the Foot-in-Mouth Disease Foundation, is missing from your list. But I'm sure it's only because, as a very busy woman, you don't have time to catalog his lengthy and growing list of shenanigans and oh-no-this-MFer-didn'ts.

  2. I simply ran out of time to get the post up today. Mackey was on the short list (and maybe should've been at the top of the list), but there was so. much. to. research, because he's said so many ridiculous things.