When CEOs are ousted.

By Jessica Sier 28 August 2018 2 min read

• Michael Woodford was CEO of Olympus for two weeks.

It seemed like Woodford was a star at Japanese camera and endoscope maker Olympus for 30 years before his promotion to CEO.

He was credited with successfully cutting costs in the European division and, in a glowing tribute on his appointment, the Olympus board said Woodford had an “extremely positive effect” on the company and praised him for showing “great sensitivity and understanding of the different cultures.”

He was tasked with increasing efficiency, modernisation, speed of implementation, shareholder value and change.

Two weeks later the same board fired the self-confessed “loud-mouthed” and “strong-headed” executive, saying he had shaken up 92 years of the firm’s management culture.

He had suggested cutting costs across the business.

• Groupon's Andrew Mason turned down Google.

Deals business Groupon reportedly took a 50% cut of every deal, plus a credit-card handling fee, which culminated in an annual revenue of around $US800 million in 2010.

At the time, Groupon was the fastest growing startup ever and in a fit of generosity (?), CEO and founder Andrew Mason reduced his annual salary from $180,000 to $756.72.

He also knocked back a 2010 bid by Google to acquire the company for $US6 billion.

Groupon went public in 2011 at a valuation of $US13 billion, trading up to $US19.5 billion on the first day.

But it failed to meet growth targets, shares were slaughtered in the public markets, and it seems as though insiders and staff alike were burned as the business has never recovered above a $US4 billion market capitalisation.

"After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family," wrote Mason in 2013. "Just kidding – I was fired today. If you're wondering why... you haven't been paying attention."

He also made a rock album called "Hardly Working".

• Parker Conrad was founder and CEO of Zenefits and liked to party.

Zenefits sells software that automates health insurance and HR functions for small businesses. It
raised about $583 million from investors in less than two years, and the company was valued
at $4.5 billion in 2015.

Then it seems as though they hired too many people, grew too fast, and the company culture
spiralled out of control with reports emerging of staff smoking, drinking, eating and having
sex in the stairwells.

The company was also investigated for not being properly licensed to sell insurance in several US
states, making it a non-compliant business in a rather heavily regulated industry.

The board then booted the founder Parker Conrad, fired nearly half its staff and sent a scathing
memo to the remaining employees, reminding them not to smoke, drink, eat or have sex in the
the office stairwells.

Words by
Jessica Sier Right Chevron

Jessica Sier is a financial journalist. Prior to that she led content at Spaceship and was a reporter at the AFR where she discovered that breaking down financial jargon was a public good.

When CEOs are ousted.