The life of a CEO is fast-paced and demanding. Results mean
everything, and when things are going less than smoothly, it's easy
to turn to the top in search of answers.
Ron Johnson's run as CEO of
JC Penney, Inc.
) ended in April, just 17 months in to his two- to three-year plan
to rebuild and rebrand the company. In May,
The Procter & Gamble Company
) CEO Bob McDonald stepped down after a four-year stint that saw
competitors start to gain ground on the consumer products giant.
It's a given that a CEO must be deeply invested in the company that
he or she leads, but here are five CEOs who have taken the extra
step -- or misstep -- in an effort to support their brand.
Elon Musk Offers Personal Guarantee for Tesla Cars
In April, Elon Musk, the CEO of
Tesla Motors Inc.
), did more than just guarantee the buyback value o
f his company's Model S sedan.
"Even if Tesla is unable to honor it, I will personally do so.
That's what I mean by putting my money where my mouth is," said
Musk in a conference call with reporters.
Forbes listed Musk's net worth at $2.7 billion as of March, but
putting this kind of guarantee behind a car that retails for over
$60,000 shows a lot of moxie on the CEO's part.
If Musk has a safety net here, should his bold move come back to
bite him, it's that the guarantee aligns the Model S's depreciation
rate with that of the
(OTCMKTS:DDAIF) over the first three years of ownership.
With the 2013 S-Class Benz losing over $40,000 dollars in value
from its $110,016 price tag in that time
according to Yahoo Autos
, Musk's debts if his Tesla experiment fails will be substantially
reduced from when the cars first pulled off the lot.
Don Thompson Eats McDonald's at Least Once Per Day
As the CEO of
) for just under a year, Don Thompson has eaten a meal from one of
is restaurants every single day, a sign that Morgan Spurlock's
Super Size Me
may not have reached him.
The new CEO has made it his mission to combat the image of
McDonald's as a catalyst for obesity. On June 3, Thompson announced
that he lost 20 pounds over the past year, despite his daily diet,
citing merely getting active as the key to his healthy turnaround.
While it's great that Thompson got active for himself and his
company, it's going to be pretty hard to pull the wool over the
eyes of the public as research continues to reveal that even
"healthy" fast food options
like Subway are poor dietary choices
Actions may speak louder than words, but when pressed by
nine-year-old Hannah Robertson about the issue of McDonald's
tricking kids into becoming addicted to their food, Thompson's
dodgy response sent a pretty telling message about the difficulty
of defending fast food.
"First off, we don't sell junk food, Hannah," said the CEO in
response, "My kids also eat McDonald's. When they were about your
size, to my son who is with us today, who was a little bit bigger,
he was a football player, and also they cook with me at home. I
love to cook. We cook a lot of fruits and veggies at home."
Todd Davis Risk His Own Social Security Number for LifeLock
and Pays the Price
Mr. Davis certainly has faith in his Arizona-based identity theft
). He was so confident in his product that in a 2006 nationwide ad
campaign, he posted his Social Security number on his website's
homepage, on billboards, and in
, inviting people to try and steal his identity and guaranteeing
they would fail.
While it was refreshing to see a CEO back his product so assuredly,
Davis's money found its way into the hands of identity thieves who
viewed his ads as a challenge. Utilizing the publicly available
SSN, Davis's identity was effectively stolen for the first time on
June 2007. It was then stolen an additional 12 times through 2008,
as reported by the Pheonix New Times
in May 2010.
Davis, who failed to report the identity thefts to customers,
attempted to put a positive twist on the story, claiming that the
13 successes -- which resulted in thefts ranging from $122 to
$2,309 spent on fraudulent cellphone contracts, bank accounts, and
even gift basket purchases -- were a small minority among hundreds
Unfortunately, 13 -- let alone one -- instances of identity theft
didn't exactly meet the advertised 100% satisfaction guarantee that
Davis promised. Accordingly, LifeLock was fined $12 million in
March 2010 by the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising.
Despite his struggles, Davis did eventually take LifeLock public in
August 2012 and the company remains a market leader in identity
theft protection, facing
(INTX) as its main competitor.
Richard Branson Turns Inaugural Flights and Product
Releases Into Spectacles
Richard Branson, the ever-exotic, headline-grabbing entrepreneurial
Brit, has never been one to shy away from the limelight. As CEO of
the London-based Virgin Group, the conglomerate behind
Virgin Media Inc.
(VMED), Virgin Airlines, Virgin Galac
tic, Virgin Music and more, Branson's net worth was determined
to be $4.6 billion as of March of this year.
A thrill-seeker, Branson has never hesitated to take a new Virgin
release and turn it into a stunt. He rappelled down the Spaceport
America hangar in New Mexico, the home of Virgin Galactic, in 2011.
In 2007 he escaped a flaming cage suspended 80 feet above Toronto's
Dundas Square (the Canadian city's answer to Times Square) to
promote Virgin's new service that let Toronto cell phone users
escape their old providers while maintaining the same contact
The knighted CEO also has quite the flair for playing dress-up.
Over the years Branson has marked Virgin Airlines inaugural flights
to New Delhi, the Caribbean Islands, Boston and Dallas/Fort Worth,
by donning a fitting outfit, from sultan to New England Patriots
In a friendly competition with
(OTCMKTS:AIABF) co-founder Tony Fernandes, Branson's Formula One
racing team was outperformed by Fernandes' back in the 2010 Grand
Prix. In typical fashion, Branson paid off his dues this May by
dressing as a flight attendant -- in drag -- and serving Fernandes
en route to Kuala Lumpur.
Michael Jeffries Refuses to Welcome All Sizes, Despite
Abercrombie & Fitch Co.
(AF) produces clothes intended for the "in" crowd. Michael
Jeffries, the CEO of the clothing company headquartered in Ohio,
has historically made it clear that he doesn't want just anybody
wearing his label. As competitors like H&M and
American Eagle Outfitters
(AEO) have diversified to accommodate a plus-size crowd over the
last few years, Jeffries has repeatedly refused to follow suit.
"Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive
all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot
of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong,"
said Jeffries in an
interview with Salon
When Jeffries says that certain people can't belong, he really
means it. Abercrombie, which is notorious for its emphasis on its
employees physical attractiveness, doesn't stock jean sizes larger
than 10, and while it does sell an extra-small size, it does not
carry an extra-large size for women. The retailer does offer XL and
XXL sizes for men, but Robin Lewis, co-author of
The New Rules of Retail
that this is only done to provide more muscular and athletic men
with suitable options.
Multiple lawsuits have been brought against the company due to its
"Look Policy." One employee was fired for her refusal to remove a
hijab, while another applicant claims she was denied the job for
the same reason. One employee in London was moved behind the scenes
after it was deemed the clothing she used to cover her prosthetic
limb also violated the notorious policy.
Jeffries may be willing to ensure certain people don't play a part
in his company's image, but with first-quarter net sales down a
reported 9% from 2012 to 2013, now might not be the time to exclude
some people and irritate others.
Bill Gates Denies His Kids iPods
The world-renowned billionaire and former
(MSFT) CEO Bill Gates had a relationship with Steve Jobs a
(AAPL) that was unlike any other. Equal parts competitive,
spiteful, and ultimately, respectful, the interplay between the two
tech leaders and their companies has often garnered attention.
Respect aside, there is one thing Gates has refused to budge on:
Absolutely no one in his family may use an Apple product.
While Melinda Gates has admitted in an
in 2009 that the iPhone has tempted her before, and that she has
politely rejected her kids requests for iPods and offered them
Zunes instead, Gates denied that his kids have ever requested an
Apple product this January when
speaking with Fox Business
It seems only logical not to bite the hand that feeds by purchasing
Apple products, but with the iPhone craze that has swept the nation
in the last few years and the notable lack of a Windows Phone
culture, Gates's children may not have been very happy with him.
In 2011, there was speculation that Gates's daughter Jennifer was
using an iPhone during the
family's trip to Australia
, providing meaningless commentary in the grand scheme of things,
but a noteworthy addition to the alluring Apple vs. Microsoft