#7. Tom Ward, former CEO, SandRidge Energy. In June, this relatively small oil and natural gas company fired its founding CEO for a combination of poor performance, exorbitant pay, and possible conflicts of interest involving another oil company run by Ward’s son, Trent. During Ward’s final quarter, SandRidge had an operating loss of $562 million on $511 million in sales and its stock had lost 90% of its value in 5 years. For that, Ward walked away with over $200 million in total compensation.
#6. Paul Ricci, CEO of Nuance (NUAN). Talk about a technology whose time has come. Voice recognition is in everything from cars and call centers to cell phones and computers. And owing to dozens of acquisitions, one company has come to dominate the market: Nuance. In spite of that, the company’s growth has stalled, it’s bleeding red ink, and its stock is down 36% this year and trading at a three-year low.
#5. Eddie Lampert, Chairman and CEO, Sears (SHLD). As chairman since the merger of Sears and Kmart in 2005, Lampert has presided over the slow and steady decline of what was once a great American retail brand. This year he added chief executive to his title and, long story short, as revenues continue to slide, losses continue to pile up, and stores continue to close, the only thing up this year is the stock.
#4. Don Basile, former CEO, Violin Memory (VMEM). After raising more than $180 million in venture capital, Basile botched the flash memory maker’s September IPO. The stock priced at $9, started trading at $7.50, and dropped 70% since. After surprising Wall Street with a horrendous quarter – a net loss of $34 million on revenues of just $28 million – Basile was fired. Interestingly, Basile lost his previous job as CEO of Fusion-io.
#3. Michael Jeffries, Chairman and CEO, Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF). While he deserves credit for reviving the once-bankrupt clothing chain, Jeffries has become the CEO that everyone with a weight problem loves to hate with infamous lines such as “we want to market to cool, good-looking people.” But that’s neither here nor there. Far more importantly, the company’s growth has stalled amidst declines in same-store sales and profit margins. The stock is down 30% this year.
#2. Thorsten Heins, former CEO, BlackBerry (BBRY). Granted, when BlackBerry’s founding co-CEOs finally stepped down in 2011, they didn’t do the company any favors by handing the mess they created to one of their hand-picked, Kool-Aid drinking disciples – sleepy co-COO Thorsten Heins. On his first investor conference call, Heins proclaimed, “I don’t think there is some drastic change needed.” That was a sign. Between then and his termination last month, the once-leading smartphone company has been decimated.
#1. Ron Johnson, former CEO, JC Penney (JCP). Customers, investors, employees – pretty much everyone involved with JC Penney – rues the day that Bill Ackman’s hedge fund bought 18% of the storied retailer and brought in Ron Johnson as CEO.