CEOs gone wild

Pop quiz: Who makes millions of dollars a year for shooting themselves in the foot? Some of the top CEOs, writes Cringely

They're like out-of-control teenagers -- flouting authority, spewing abuse, wrecking the car, allowing 10 billion gallons of crude oil to slime up the planet. I am, of course, talking about the world's chief executive officers -- and the bootlicking lackeys who do their dirty work.

The past week has given us ample examples of why these guys (sorry Carol Bartz) should have their BlackBerrys taken away and be forced to wash the car and mow the lawn.

Admittedly, CEOs in the tech world pale in comparison to those in, say, the tobacco, pharmaceutical, or fossil fuels industries. The latest poster child for Chief Executive Obnoxiousness is BP el jefe Tony Hayward, who is quoted on video as saying, "There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I'd like my life back." (Think Progress shares more, equally ego-centric Haywardisms as well.)

Memo to Tony: Hey a******. We want our Gulf back. Until you can manage that, we think you can skip a few golf dates.

Hayward did issue a damage-control apology two days later. Thanks Tony -- that makes up for everything.

(Side note: After the spill, a wickedly satirical bogus Twitter account for BP's public relations crew sprang up. @BPGlobalPR now boasts 120,000-plus followers and continues to mock the company mercilessly, though it's apparently not true that BP tried to shut it down -- like BP could manage to shut down anything.)

Still, Hayward has some competition from the tech sector. AT&T's Randall Stephenson demonstrated a nifty slime-ball two-step this week. In addition to killing off the concept of unlimited wireless data, possibly forever, his lackeys came down hard on a now-former customer for sending him two (count 'em, two) emails over the course of two weeks.

As said customer, Giorgio Galante, notes on his blog, he sent the emails directly to Stephenson's email address. Neither one was particularly obscene or out of the ordinary. Yet he still got a voice mail from one of Stephenson's toadies, who threatened to send him a cease-and-desist order if he didn't stop emailing Stephenson.

After that news became public, AT&T issued its own damage-control apology. (The boys at eSarcasm also offered up a list of 10 other things you can do to get AT&T mad at you.)

Meanwhile, there's Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who engaged in a sweaty, evasive, totally unconvincing interview with Walt "Billy Goat" Mossberg and Kara "The Swish" Swisher at the All Things Digital confab. Kara actually made him take off his hoodie because he was perspiring so much.

Facebook has yet to issue a damage-control apology for a) its reckless data practices, b) Zuckerberg's sweatiness, or c) his hoodie. However, there is no truth to the rumor that Zucky has been signed to star in a series of new Axe Dry antiperspirant ads video.

We finish with our favorite CEO bad boy, Steve "The Mad" Ballmer, the grandmaster of fear, uncertainty, doubt, and excessive bodily fluids (FUDEBF). At that same confab he admitted Windows Mobile is in fifth place in the smartphone platform market, but failed to acknowledge that number four is "other." He also called the Apple iPad "just another PC." Ouch. At least he didn't call it just another Windows PC. That would have really hurt.

Got other examples of CEOs behaving like spoiled children? E-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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Robert X. Cringely

InfoWorld
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