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The 101 Dumbest Moments in Business
Business 2.0 ^ | Tim Carvell, Adam Horowitz, Thomas Mucha

Posted on 07/24/2002 9:56:04 AM PDT by wallcrawlr

In a perfect world, a list like this would not exist. In a perfect world, businesses would be run with the utmost integrity and competence. But ours is, alas, an imperfect world, and if we must live in one where Enron, Geraldo Rivera, and Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes exist, the least we can do is catalog the absurdities.

1. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 1: Enron states billions of dollars in extra revenue through aggressive accounting and complicated off-the-books partnerships managed by its own executives, all the while ignoring warnings from its employees and enriching its top executives at the expense of its investors and workforce. And it assumes none of this will ever come to light. 2. A dozen Burger King marketing execs suffer first- and second-degree burns while walking over hot coals as part of a team-building retreat in October. One of the injured, a VP for product marketing aptly named Dana Frydman, tries to put a positive spin on having her feet flame-broiled like so much ground chuck. "It made you feel a sense of empowerment and that you can accomplish anything," she tells the Miami Herald

3. Banana Republic co-founders Mel and Patricia Ziegler start ZoZa, an "athletic formalwear" retailer, in late 2000. Mel says he expects sales to reach $1 billion within seven years. Gary Rieschel of Softbank Venture Capital invests $16.5 million, telling BusinessWeek, "If you have guts and you have capital, how can you not be optimistic about the consumer market?" Here's how: ZoZa's designers revamp its spring 2001 line, intentionally making their dresses two sizes smaller than labeled. Even the svelte are outraged, and ZoZa's merchandise return rate soars to 80 percent. The company shuts down in May 2001, proving that, if the dress doesn't fit, you must, uh, quit.

4. Sept. 11 Inc., Rampant Greed Division: Gas stations nationwide exploit post-Sept. 11 fears of a fuel shortage by charging customers $4 and $5 per gallon. Among the worst offenders: a station in Jackson, Mich., that, according to Newsweek, hikes its price to $6.75 per gallon.

5. Proving the old business-school saw that "any idiot can sell a dollar for 80 cents," online-currency company in July launches a special offer whereby American Express platinum cardholders can buy $1,000 of Flooz currency for just $800.

6. A month later, ceases processing transactions. It declares bankruptcy in November, leaving those who bought Flooz currency stuck with worthless e-dollars.

7. Last May, Citizens Against Government Waste, a group that received funding from Microsoft (MSFT), is caught simulating a "grassroots" campaign to get state attorneys general to drop their antitrust suit against the software giant. One detail that gives the scheme away: Some of the letters supporting Microsoft are from people who have long since died.

8. After issuing his landmark antitrust decision against Microsoft, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson lets reporters print comments from previously confidential interviews, in which he compares Bill Gates to Napoleon and Microsoft executives to gangland killers. In June an appeals court overturns Jackson's decision to break up the company, citing his remarks as evidence of his "rampant disregard for the judiciary's ethical obligations."

9. At a Microsoft employee event last summer, CEO Steve Ballmer apparently suffers a grand mal seizure. Or attempts to dance. One or the other. It's hard to tell. In any case, a video clip of his calisthenics starts making the rounds of the Internet.

10. With the slogan "Sometimes wetter is better," Kimberly-Clark (KMB) introduces Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes premoistened toilet paper -- or, to put it another way, baby wipes for adults.

11. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 2: Business 2.0 puts Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling on the cover of its August/September issue as a symbol of the digital revolution. A week after the issue hits newsstands, Skilling resigns from his job. In retrospect, perhaps Skilling's pose on the cover should have provided a clue.

12. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 3 (or, if Arthur Andersen Is Doing the Accounting, Part 1,000,000,003): In mid-October, Enron discloses that it has erroneously added $1 billion to its assets, despite the rigorous oversight of its auditors at Arthur Andersen. Enron takes a $1 billion charge against earnings, which prompts questions about how reliable the rest of its numbers are.

13. Having earned the enmity of the five major record labels as CEO of, Michael Robertson takes on Microsoft by launching Lindows, a Linux-based operating system that runs Windows programs. Robertson says he isn't afraid of going up against the world's most notoriously competitive company. "There were five major record labels, and there's only one Microsoft," he says. "That's an 80 percent reduction."

14. Following in the footsteps of M.C. Hammer and a talking Chihuahua, CEO and Time magazine 1999 Person of the Year Jeff Bezos becomes a shill for Taco Bell in an ad that touts its chicken quesadilla as a "hot new handheld."

15. Two years after announcing its plan to build a state-of-the-art $400 million supply chain, Nike (NKE) cuts its earnings outlook for the current quarter by more than $50 million, citing problems caused by supply-chain software supplied by i2 (ITWO). Nike CEO Philip Knight tells analysts, "I guess my immediate reaction is 'This is what we get for $400 million?'" i2 counters that the problem was Nike's implementation of its system; meanwhile, i2 shareholders sue the company for failing to promptly disclose its Nike troubles.

16. "No one will deny that Sony is a world-class hardware company, and no one would deny that Microsoft is a world-class software company. Nintendo aspires to be neither one of those things." -- Peter Main, a Nintendo marketing executive, to the San Francisco Chronicle

17. Still Partying Like It's 1999, Part 1: Boasting a total of precisely one profitable quarter, hosts its third annual Tibet-themed "Freedom From Software" bash in New York. Dinner at the Russian Tea Room is followed by a concert at Carnegie Hall featuring David Bowie, Philip Glass, the Kronos Quartet, and the monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery. Making the linkage between "freedom from software" and "freedom from religious oppression" explicit, the invitation bears an image of Buddha and states that "the path to enlightenment requires no software."

18. CNN 1, Fox News 0: On her first day as a newsreader for CNN's Headline News, former NYPD Blue actress Andrea Thompson ingratiates herself to viewers by announcing, "I'm Andrea Thompson, and unless you've been living in a cave, you probably already know that."

19. CNN 1, Fox News 1: The Fox News Channel hires Geraldo Rivera. And sends him to Afghanistan. With a camera crew. And a return ticket.

20. The Gartner Group issues trading cards featuring its analysts.

21. NBC and the World Wrestling Federation plow $100 million into creating the XFL. The March 17 game between the Birmingham Thunderbolts and the Las Vegas Outlaws scores a 1.6 Nielsen rating, believed to be the lowest ever for any prime-time network program. The league folds after one season.

22. Sept. 11 Inc., Clueless as to the Content of Our Content Division: In the wake of the terrorist attacks, employees of radio conglomerate Clear Channel (CCU) begin circulating a list of songs inappropriate for airplay. Among the songs is "Imagine," John Lennon's stirring plea for world peace, which is later performed by Neil Young during the "America: A Tribute to Heroes" fund-raiser for victims of the attacks. Clear Channel's management denies issuing or endorsing the list.

23. Italian jewelry company Bulgari pays British novelist Fay Weldon an undisclosed sum to extol Bulgari products in her next book. Weldon complies, offering descriptions of "white gold and pavé diamonds, cold metal intricately, beautifully worked, lain heavily against the cool, moist flesh of wrist and throat...." The book's title: The Bulgari Connection.

24. By faking the transactions that should have offset the risk in his portfolio, a trader named John Rusnak, working for a Baltimore subsidiary of Allied Irish Banks, loses $691.2 million before the bank discovers his misdeeds. After the bank and the federal government launch investigations, Rusnak is fired, denying him the chance to unseat Barings PLC's Nicholas Leeson -- who lost $1.4 billion and destroyed a 232-year-old company -- as the most inept rogue trader ever.

25. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 4: As questions swirl around Enron's finances in mid-November, CEO Kenneth Lay reassures investors, "Everything we know, you know."

26. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 5: In November, just as the scope of the financial improprieties at Enron becomes apparent, the James A. Baker III Institute gives out the Enron Prize, for distinguished public service. Its recipient: Alan Greenspan.

27. Mobile Office Enterprise unveils the Express Desk, which attaches a notebook computer to the steering wheel of a car. For use only while parked, of course.

28, 29, 30. Great Moments in Privacy

Part 1: In June 2001, the Georgia Student Finance Commission accidentally allows more than 18,000 scholarship applicants' personal information to be released onto the Internet.

Part 2: Not to be outdone, Eli Lilly sends a mass e-mail in July to users of its antidepressant Prozac but neglects to use the "bcc" header, further depressing its customers by disclosing their online identities to one another.

Part 3: Trumping Eli Lilly, in October a graduate student at the University of Montana accidentally posts to the school's website more than 400 documents relating to the psychiatric treatment of 62 children, including names, addresses, descriptions of sessions, and diagnoses.

31. An FBI investigation reveals that, since 1995, McDonald's (MCD) prize contests, including its popular Monopoly game, have been rigged by eight individuals, including one who worked for the firm McDonald's hired to run the contests. The eight allegedly conspired to corner the market on the winning game pieces without enduring that arduous eating-food-from-McDonald's step.

32. AOL (AOL) and Coca-Cola (KO) have the opposite problem from McDonald's: A cosponsored contest on AOL mistakenly informs more than 100 people that they have won $10,000. AOL attempts to propitiate the nonwinners with $200 gift certificates and three free months of AOL.

33. "We've been doubling sales every 18 months. However, when you start from zero, it takes a long while." -- Stephen Yeo, a marketing director at Windows-terminal manufacturer Wyse, explaining his company's less-than-meteoric rise, to ZDNet UK

34. Sept. 11 Inc., Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid Division: The October issue of the Association of Lloyd's Members newsletter announces that the terrorist attacks represent a "historic opportunity" for insurance underwriters to make money.

35. Despite a looming ad drought at the beginning of 2001, AOL Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin and chairman Steve Case reaffirm their intention of reaching $40 billion in revenues and $11 billion in Ebitda in the coming year -- representing gains of 15 and 25 percent, respectively.

36. In June -- even as the country appears to be sliding into recession -- AOL executives again affirm the company's intention to meet its targets. Despite widespread skepticism, the company retreats from its stated goals only after Sept. 11. (In January 2002, AOL Time Warner releases its annual results, which show revenues of $38 billion and Ebitda of $9.9 billion -- decent results by any standard save those set by AOL's top brass a year earlier. AOL Time Warner co-COO Bob Pittman tells the Financial Times, "I wish I'd kept my mouth shut.")

37. Still Partying Like It's 1999, Part 2: Loudcloud (LDCL), Marc Andreessen's Internet-infrastructure firm, launches an IPO in March 2001, smack-dab in the middle of the unfriendliest market in a decade. In contrast to Andreessen's previous IPO -- Netscape, whose stock more than doubled on its first day and set off the tech-IPO mania of the 1990s -- Loudcloud sinks like a lead cloud. The stock is offered at $6 per share, well below the originally projected range of $10 to $12, and climbs all the way to $6.56 on the day of its offering. As of press time, it traded at $2.46 per share.

38. Excite@Home,, and others line up to sponsor "Back the Net" day on April 3, 2001; participants are encouraged to purchase either a product or a share of stock online. The idea is "to dispel the negative stereotypes ... that have sent our technological marketplace into a recession." (Because nothing dispels negative stereotypes quite like an abject plea for charity.)

39. After filing for Chapter 11, declaring their intention to liquidate the company's assets, and ending health-care benefits for retirees, Polaroid executives file a request in bankruptcy court to distribute an estimated $19 million in "stay bonuses" to the company's top 45 executives.

40. The Newspaper Association of America names Kmart its "Retailer of the Year" on Jan. 21, 2002, one day before the company files for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11.

41. founder and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is fined more than $1 million by the NBA in a span of 14 months, including $500,000 for saying of the league's director of officiating, "I wouldn't hire him to manage a Dairy Queen." Under fire from the nation's Dairy Queen managers, who feel he has denigrated their profession, Cuban works a shift in a Dairy Queen five days later.

42. CNN 2, Fox News 1: Five years after Ted Turner flips the switch on CNN/SI and declares it "a smasheroo" -- and after it racks up a reported $76 million in losses and manages to penetrate just 23 percent of the nation's cable-TV-equipped homes -- AOL Time Warner executives announce plans to pull the plug on the 24-hour sports-news channel.

43. CNN 2, Fox News 2: Reporting live from Afghanistan, Geraldo Rivera implies that he's packing heat. "We refuse to be crime victims," Rivera says. "We're not the victim types. If they're going to get us, it's going to be in a gunfight."

44. 20th Century Fox spends a reported $15 million to produce the comedy movie Freddy Got Fingered, in which Tom Green licks a man's open wound, swings a (fake) newborn baby around his head by the umbilical cord and then severs the cord with his teeth, and fondles the genitalia of both a horse and an elephant. To repeat, it is a "comedy."

45. Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig announces the planned elimination of two teams by the start of the 2002 season. The downsizing triggers public outrage, a union grievance, a municipal lawsuit, congressional hearings, inquiries from three state attorneys general, and calls for Selig's resignation.

46. An advertisement for Alcatel shows the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. making his historic "I Have a Dream" speech, but digitally erases the throngs of people who stood on the Washington Mall to hear it. The ad's message -- something about how important it is to "connect" -- connects with viewers in an unintended way: They are unnerved by the manipulation of one of the signal events in the history of the American civil rights movement.

47, 48, 49. On Second Thought, I'll Take an Import Sedan With Michelins

Part 1: Facing a PR debacle after Firestone tires on Ford Explorers begin coming apart, killing 78 people and injuring hundreds more, the two companies turn on each other. Ford says Firestone tires have a higher incidence of tread separation than other tires; Firestone suggests that Ford Explorers are more likely to roll over than other SUVs. Prospective car- and tire-buyers edge warily away from the squabbling duo: Sales of Explorers drop by 16.4 percent, while Firestone's sales plunge by 40 percent.

Part 2: Traffic safety consultant Sean Kane discloses that -- at the behest of a group of plaintiffs' lawyers who were representing those injured in SUV accidents -- his watchdog group, Strategic Safety, had begun investigating failures involving Ford vehicles and Firestone tires back in 1996. The group never alerted regulators, Kane tells the New York Times, "because a number of plaintiffs' lawyers had been burned in similar instances."

Part 3: Firestone decides to fight the federal government's request that it recall some of its Wilderness AT tires. John Lampe, the CEO of the Bridgestone/Firestone unit, explains the decision to ignore the government's findings by saying, "Our consumers can drive with confidence on our tires. We're 100 percent committed to doing everything for the safety of our driving public." Three months later, Bridgestone/Firestone relents, agreeing to replace 3.5 million tires.

50. Enron Field

51. CMGI Field

52. PSINet Stadium

53. Conseco Fieldhouse

54. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 6: In October and November, as the scope of Enron's troubles becomes clear and its share price drops from $22 to $9, Alfred Harrison, a money manager with Alliance Capital, buys 2 million shares in the company on behalf of the Florida State Pension Fund. Indeed, he buys so many shares that he exceeds the fund's 6 percent limit on investments in one stock. He later sells the shares for 28 cents apiece. Alliance denies suggestions that its purchases of Enron have anything to do with the fact that one of Alliance's board members, Frank Savage, was also a director of Enron. Whatever the explanation, Florida fires Alliance, terminating a 17-year relationship.

55. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 7: Richard Gross, an analyst at Lehman Bros., maintains a "strong buy" rating on Enron as the stock declines from $81 to $0.75. A Lehman spokesperson helpfully explains to the New York Times that the firm was advising Dynegy on its purchase of Enron's pipeline, and it is Lehman's policy not to change the firm's rating on any company involved in a deal in which Lehman is an adviser.

56. places advertisements on the slips of paper inside fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants. Confusion ensues when some customers mistakenly believe that the advertisements, which offer $5 off a purchase at, actually entitle them to $5 off their dinner check.

57. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 8 (Innocent Bystander Department): For an onscreen caption during an interview about the Enron debacle with Republican consultant Niger Innis, MSNBC accidentally misspells his first name in the way that one would least want to misspell it. "It's not the first time it's happened," Innis says, "but hopefully it's the last."

58. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 9 (Not-Quite-So-Innocent Bystander Department): In a tearful interview on NBC's Today, Linda Lay, wife of Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, proclaims, "Everything we had was mostly in Enron stock.... We are struggling for liquidity." Reporters soon note that the Lays have $8 million in stock in other companies and $25 million in real estate holdings.

59. In October, Global Crossing forgives two-thirds of a $15 million loan it made to newly appointed CEO John Legere when he worked for the company's Asian subsidiary. He also receives a $3.5 million signing bonus, despite the fact that he is already employed by Global Crossing. Of course, the $13.5 million is pocket change for Global Crossing founder and chairman Gary Winnick, who -- despite the fact that his firm has never earned a penny of profit -- has already sold $734 million worth of stock in the soon-to-be-bankrupt company.

60. Washing Off the Stench of Death, Part 1: Philip Morris (MO) proposes changing its name to Altria, presumably to escape the taint of its tobacco-producing past. It does not, however, stop producing tobacco, which does not stop causing cancer.

61. Washing Off the Stench of Death, Part 2: Making matters even more awkward, the name Altria turns out to be already taken by Altria Healthcare, a firm based in Birmingham, Ala., that is not especially pleased to be linked to a noted producer of poor health.

62. Proudly Announcing the New, Slightly Less Pungent Stench of Death: And in other tobacco news, the Advance and Omni brands of cigarettes unveil new slogans: "All of the taste ... Less of the toxins" and "Reduced carcinogens. Premium taste," respectively.

63. Bottling the Stench of Death and Calling It Perfume: Philip Morris also attempts to counter antismoking measures in the Czech Republic by commissioning an economic analysis of the "indirect positive effects" of early deaths -- savings on health care, pensions, welfare, and housing for the elderly. The company later apologizes.

64. Fox News 3, CNN 2: During his sojourn in Afghanistan, Geraldo Rivera decries the deplorable living conditions in the town of Taloqan. Standing in front of a crowd of barefoot children, Rivera looks solemnly into the camera and states, "Look at the children. They haven't seen television or anything their whole lives."

65. Eleven years after McDonald's announces that it has started cooking its fries in "100 percent vegetable oil" -- and one month after a Seattle lawyer files suit on behalf of Hindus and vegetarians who interpreted that to mean that the fries are meat-free -- the fast-food chain concedes that the "natural flavoring" in its fries is, in fact, beef fat.

66. Having already earned the public's enmity by declaring bankruptcy rather than negotiating with the government during California's electricity shortage, Pacific Gas & Electric shores up its public image by awarding $17.5 million in retention bonuses to its executives.

67. "I only flew Concorde three times, and they were all special offers." -- Kajsa Leander, co-founder of -- which spent $135 million in two years before going bankrupt -- countering charges in a book by Swedish journalist Gunnar Lindstedt that her firm spent too extravagantly

68. In June, Sony (SNE) admits that its marketing department created a fake critic, David Manning of the Ridgefield Press, to provide positive blurbs for its movies Hollow Man, A Knight's Tale, and The Animal.

69. Why You Still Don't Have Broadband, Part 1: Last June, DSL provider Northpoint Communications, already operating under Chapter 11 protection, abruptly ends service after it fails to secure additional funding. The move leaves 100,000 customers (including 20,000 businesses) without Internet access.

70. Why You Still Don't Have Broadband, Part 2: In April 2001, Rhythms NetConnections CEO Catherine Hapka resigns, one day after the company reveals in a regulatory filing that she received a 10 percent raise while leading the company to a Nasdaq delisting and is in line for a $400,000 golden parachute. Hapka also reaps $21.5 million from the sale of Rhythms stock. Company officials claim that the company has enough cash to last well into 2002. Five months later, the DSL provider closes up shop.

71. Why You Still Don't Have Broadband, Part 3: "There will always be crybaby boobies who are unhappy with any company." -- Martha Sessums, spokeswoman for DSL provider Covad, illustrating in an interview with the customer-service strategy that helped her company plummet into bankruptcy

72. Why You Still Don't Have Broadband, Part 4: "I don't get up in the morning and crunch numbers." -- Excite@Home CEO Patti Hart, to the New York Times, shortly before her company files for Chapter 11

73. In February 2002, WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers tells analysts that the company has paid off his margin loans. He now owes the company almost $340 million, while his company shares are worth only $120 million. Assets potentially up for sale: his villa in Vail, Colo., and his 164,000-acre spread in British Columbia, Douglas Lake Ranch, bought in 1998 for a reported $67 million. Meanwhile, to conserve cash, WorldCom cuts off employees' coffee supplies and stops subsidizing their home long-distance bills.

74. NBC gives excitable superstar chef Emeril Lagasse his own sitcom, Emeril, a show so unremittingly awful that, after the pilot is shown to critics, one stands up at a press conference and asks NBC West Coast president Scott Sassa, "Can you explain how a show like Emeril has gotten as far as it has? I'm not asking that facetiously. I'm trying to understand the process." Despite the pilot's being taken in for retooling, the show is canceled after just seven episodes.

75. Unilever subsidiary Lipton approves an ad in which a man standing in line for communion holds a bowl of onion dip, presumably to improve the taste of the body of Christ. Under protest, Lipton withdraws the ad.

76. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 10: As Enron swirls into bankruptcy, it pays out $55 million in bonuses to about 500 of its employees -- about $110,000 apiece -- in order to retain their services. This is in stark contrast to the $4,500 severance package offered to 5,100 laid-off Enron workers.

77. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 11: In late January 2002 -- well after the government has instructed Enron to stop shredding accounting documents -- Maureen Castaneda, a recently laid-off Enron employee, reveals that the shredding has continued. The tip-off: In boxing up her belongings, Castaneda finds a stash of shredded paper to use as packing material. Because the paper has been shredded horizontally instead of vertically, Castaneda can see that it consists of accounting documents.

78. After two years of hype, Dean Kamen unveils Ginger, a.k.a. the Segway HT scooter. To understand why this is on our list, kindly refer to the table below.




About $3,000



15 miles on a single battery charge

How far do you feel like going?


12.5 mph

How fast can you pedal?


80 pounds

44 pounds


A total dork who's too lazy to walk

A fit, active human being

79. CNN 3, Fox News 3: CNN airs a promotion for morning anchor Paula Zahn, identifying the leggy blond as "just a little sexy" to the sound of a record scratching. As the words "provocative" and "sexy" flash across the screen, a close-up shot of Zahn's lips appears.

80. Sept. 11 Inc., "I'm Almost -- Almost -- Too Stupid to Ridicule" Division: At 2:40 p.m. on Sept. 11, a New Jersey restaurateur named Michael Heiden files a form with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the words "World Trade Center." Interviewed by the Smoking Gun website, Heiden claims that Disney trademarked the term "Pearl Harbor" before producing that film [it did not], and that, "if they ever do make a movie [about the terrorist attacks], I'd like to get involved."

81. Speaking of Pearl Harbor -- a film budgeted at $135 million and scrutinized by countless Disney (DIS) executives -- nobody involved in its production thinks to question the scene in which Ben Affleck boards a train from Grand Central Terminal in New York to his airbase ... in England.

82. After 18 months at Webvan, overseeing a stock plunge of more than 99 percent, CEO George Shaheen resigns from the online grocer in April 2001, receiving a pension that pays him $375,000 per year for life. The only saving grace: Webvan goes bankrupt three months later, rendering it unable to pay Shaheen's pension.

83. Sept. 11 Inc., Misplaced Patriotism Division: In the months after the attacks, more than a dozen people and companies file trademark applications for the phrase "Let's roll" or variants thereof. In the face of protests from the Todd Beamer Foundation -- named for the passenger on United Flight 93 who uttered the phrase -- one trademark applicant, Jack L. Williams of Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., tells the Associated Press, "I don't care what your name is, it's first in, first swim.... It's all about good old American capitalism."

84. CelebSites, a company whose business consists of managing celebrities' URLs in order to prevent famous people's names from falling into the hands of unscrupulous cybersquatters, shuts down in March 2001. As a result, some of its clients' names fall into the hands of unscrupulous cybersquatters.

85. Still Partying Like It's 1999, Part 3: Peter Chung, a newly hired associate at the Carlyle Group, sends an e-mail to his friends bragging about his lavish new lifestyle. The e-mail -- in which he boasts of the "hot chicks" he's bedding and concludes, "CHUNG is KING of his domain here in Seoul" -- is sent to thousands of other people and eventually makes its way back to his bosses. Chung, no longer king of his domain, is summarily fired.

86. A Finnish textiles conference, intending to invite a representative of the World Trade Organization to speak, instead accidentally invites Andy Bichlbaum, an American antiglobalization activist-prankster. He delivers a speech in which he expresses sympathy for the South in the Civil War, describes Mohandas Gandhi as a "rabble-rouser," and disrobes to reveal that he is wearing a golden spandex unitard featuring a 3-foot-long inflatable phallus.

87. Apparently unaware of the group's enmity for the corporate world, GM (GM) pays the British pop band Chumbawamba $100,000 for the rights to use the song "Pass It Along" in a Pontiac ad campaign. The band promptly passes along the money to a pair of advocacy groups, including one, CorpWatch, that intends to spend some of the money looking into GM's social and environmental track record.

88. Sept. 11 Inc., Lip Service Does Not Equal Charity Division: Shoe designer Steve Madden resigns as CEO of his eponymous company after being arrested on stock-fraud charges, to which he pleads guilty. A move that could help rehabilitate his image -- designing an American-flag-themed shoe called "Bravest" in order to "raise money for New York City's fallen firefighters" -- backfires when the New York Times reveals that none of the $515,783 in profits from the shoe were given to firefighters' charities until reporters began inquiring into the matter.

89. Sept. 11 Inc., A Tiny Portion of the Proceeds Doesn't Equal Charity Either Division: Once reporters do look into Steve Madden Inc.'s disposition of funds from "Bravest," the company pledges to give 10 percent of its proceeds from the shoe, and a minimum of $100,000, to a firefighters' charity. It keeps the remainder for itself. Jamie Karson, Madden's new CEO, explains to the Times that "the most patriotic thing we can do is make money."

90. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 12: In his testimony before Congress, Jeffrey Skilling claims that he is unable to recall a board of directors committee meeting in which records show that he had approved several partnership deals, in part because "the room was dark, quite frankly, and people were walking in and out of the meeting."

91. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 13: In his testimony before Congress, Skilling also refutes charges that he "dumped" shares of Enron, by noting, "I left Enron holding about the same number of shares that I held at the beginning of 2001. On Jan. 1, 2001, the start of my final year at Enron, I owned approximately 1.1 million shares of Enron stock. On Aug. 14, the day I left, I owned about 940,000 shares of Enron stock." Apparently, the more than $3 million he received for the other 160,000 shares qualifies as rounding error.

92. "Ten years from now, when Jac decides to retire, people will be saying, 'I told you so.'" -- Ford spokesman Jason Vines in the New York Times, in mid-October, hotly denying rumors that Ford CEO Jacques Nasser's job is in trouble; Nasser resigns two weeks later, just 9.96 years shy of Vines's estimate

93. Tina Brown's Diary in the February 2002 issue of Talk magazine is titled "Humble Up!" and consists of a waggish assessment of failure, under the header "Learning to love the recession." This is, it turns out, the last installment of Tina Brown's Diary, as the magazine's backers, Hearst and Miramax, choose to pull the plug on Talk.

94. Frank Flynn, an assistant professor at Columbia University's business school, reportedly sends identical letters to 240 of New York's best restaurants; in each letter, Flynn claims he became ill as a result of dining at said establishment. At least one restaurant offers Flynn a free meal as compensation before others get wise to the hoax. Flynn maintains that he sent the letters as part of a study in customer service.

95. Having lured Mariah Carey with a $21 million signing bonus and an $80 million, five-album recording contract, EMI decides, after only one album, to pay her $28 million to go away. The net result: EMI pays $49 million for the soundtrack to Glitter.

96. Still Partying Like It's 1999, Part 4: David Kim Stanley, the convicted felon who, under the name Michael Fenne, led the Web video firm Pixelon until his past crimes were discovered, manages to find backers for a new venture, which he co-founds from jail. No word yet on whether his new firm, StatGuard, will have a launch party on par with Pixelon's legendary $16 million Las Vegas blowout.

97. Disney forces its theme-park workers to wear company-issued and -laundered undergarments beneath their costumes, despite complaints that the skivvies contain scabies and lice. Finally, it relents: Employees must still wear company-issued undergarments, but can now take them home to wash them.

98. "Do you judge Ted Williams on one bad year?" -- Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker, to Fortune magazine, explaining why it's unfair to criticize the fact that stocks on which she has maintained "outperform" ratings have lost more than 90 percent of their value. (For the record, Ted Williams's worst year was 1959. He played the season with a neck injury and still finished the year hitting a respectable .254.)

99. And the Winner Is ... Fox News!: Geraldo Rivera informs viewers that he has visited the site of a friendly-fire incident in which three American soldiers were killed. "I said the Lord's Prayer and really choked up," Rivera says. When a critic for the Baltimore Sun later points out that Rivera was, in fact, more than 100 miles away from the site of the incident, Rivera claims he was actually at the site of a different friendly-fire incident, one that has escaped the attention of the military or any other journalistic source. "This cannot stand," Rivera adds. "He has impugned my honor. It is as if he slapped me in the face and challenged me to a duel."

100. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 14: In February 2002, as it struggles to emerge from bankruptcy, Enron pays more than $200,000 to retain its box seats and luxury suite at Enron Field. The company argues that it is making the payment solely to fulfill its contractual obligation -- although, coincidentally, it had earlier failed to fulfill a $200,000-a-year commitment to fund a local Boys and Girls Club.

101. Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 15 (and, No Doubt, to Be Continued ...): Proving that the Enron debacle is so ugly that not even a mother could love it, Jeffrey Skilling's mother, Betty, informs Newsweek, "When you are the CEO and you are on the board of directors, you are supposed to know what's going on with the rest of the company.... You can't get off the hook with me there."

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events

1 posted on 07/24/2002 9:56:04 AM PDT by wallcrawlr
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To: wallcrawlr
Why is number 1 "dumb?" It was a planned, and successful scheme.
2 posted on 07/24/2002 10:14:54 AM PDT by Shermy
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: wallcrawlr
Already posted here and here.
4 posted on 07/24/2002 10:21:33 AM PDT by TomServo
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To: wallcrawlr
Re: #78 - Who can walk at 12.5 MPH? Heck yes, I'd get one if I had $3k to burn.

5 posted on 07/24/2002 10:24:13 AM PDT by smokinleroy
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To: wallcrawlr
Excellent article!
6 posted on 07/24/2002 10:28:09 AM PDT by martin_fierro
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To: wallcrawlr
7 posted on 07/24/2002 10:31:53 AM PDT by Centurion2000
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To: wallcrawlr

I'm a Windows user, but that Ballmer video clip truly is disturbing.

8 posted on 07/24/2002 10:36:17 AM PDT by martin_fierro
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To: Shermy
I notice Kenny is walking around free and rich, pretty good business deal to me. If/when anything gets filed on him most of the loot will never be found.
9 posted on 07/24/2002 10:38:15 AM PDT by steve50
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To: wallcrawlr
80. Sept. 11 Inc., "I'm Almost -- Almost -- Too Stupid to Ridicule" Division: At 2:40 p.m. on Sept. 11, a New Jersey restaurateur named Michael Heiden files a form with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the words "World Trade Center." Interviewed by the Smoking Gun website, Heiden claims that Disney trademarked the term "Pearl Harbor" before producing that film [it did not], and that, "if they ever do make a movie [about the terrorist attacks], I'd like to get involved profit from those who died on 9-11.

It's the only reason I can think of.

10 posted on 07/24/2002 10:38:34 AM PDT by MotleyGirl70
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To: Shermy
I think its the "assumes it will never come to light" part that makes it dumb.
11 posted on 07/24/2002 10:38:47 AM PDT by Wolfie
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To: wallcrawlr
This is cool but it's too focused on modern blunders. Can't really be the 101 worst blunders without the Edsel and New Coke (and plenty of others from before 1995).
12 posted on 07/24/2002 11:05:10 AM PDT by discostu
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To: wallcrawlr
22. Sept. 11 Inc., Clueless as to the Content of Our Content Division: In the wake of the terrorist attacks, employees of radio conglomerate Clear Channel (CCU) begin circulating a list of songs inappropriate for airplay. Among the songs is "Imagine," John Lennon's stirring plea for world peace, which is later performed by Neil Young during the "America: A Tribute to Heroes" fund-raiser for victims of the attacks. Clear Channel's management denies issuing or endorsing the list.

I'd argue with this one. Lennon's song is more a paen to nihilism.

13 posted on 07/24/2002 12:45:36 PM PDT by martin_fierro
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