MySpace has quadrupled its estimated number of registered sex offenders posting profiles on the site, from its May estimate of 7,000 to a current tally of 29,000. The pages of identified offenders have been deleted. What does this news mean for parents? How do we assess risk and keep it in perspective, and what best practices should be implemented on family, corporate and societal levels to keep kids safe?… Read more
Ever wonder where your career is heading? Well, let me ask you this:
Are you capable of moral flexibility? Good at covering things up without getting caught? Know what plausible deniability is? Then you just might be a candidate for executive management.
Or, are you in a complete state of denial about your future, a goody two shoes content to let management use you for toilet paper for the next 10 or 20 years?
Want to know what the future holds for you? Then get out your pen and paper and take this quiz, if you dare. Scoring is at the end. Hey, no cheating!1. Corporate fraud happens: a) rarely b) more often than you think c) sooner or later d) whenever the greedy SOBs can get away with it
2. Executives who defraud shareholders should be: a) slapped on the wrist b) fined c) fined and imprisoned d) forced to watch reruns of The Anna Nicole Show
3. Greed is: a) what I live for b) for lack of a better term, good c) fine in moderation d) the sin of capitalist dogs; long live Karl Marx and the revolution
4. Most board directors: a) have shareholders' interests at heart b) do a reasonably competent job of oversight c) are bought and paid for by the CEO d) are tired old farts that are desperate to be relevant
5. Executive compensation in corporate America: a) is reasonable, CEOs deserve what they get b) is a little hard to swallow, sometimes c) is excessive and out of control d) inflames my hemorrhoids every time I read a proxy statement
Imagine this: a company has a $35 billion market cap, a P/E of 50, annual revenues of $5 billion, annual profits of $500 million, 60% gross margins, and about $3 billion in the bank.
Nice fundamentals, right? Now imagine the same company being characterized as "embattled." What could possibly be so wrong with this picture that an outcry from investors got the CEO booted?
The company in question, of course, is Yahoo. And what's wrong is that archrival Google has figured out how to mint money with search ads and now boasts a market cap of $170 billion and $3 billion in annual profits. The bad news for Yahoo is that advertising, for the most part, is a zero-sum game. Google's good fortunes spell boohoo for Yahoo.
It doesn't help that, in 1998, Chief Yahoo and co-founder David Filo encouraged Google's founders to start a search-engine company. Or that, in 2002, Yahoo had a chance to buy Google for $5 billion and passed.
The irony of those missed opportunities isn't lost on anyone; every Yahoo employee and shareholder has felt its demoralizing effects, not to mention Yahoo's deteriorating share price. All it took was a whopping $71 million executive pay package for CEO Terry Semel to put investors over the edge.
Less than a week after the company's annual shareholder meeting, Semel was out and Chief Yahoo and co-founder Jerry Yang was in. Until then, Yahoo had employed seasoned executives at the top--first Tim "TK" Koogle and later Semel. Still, founders Filo and Yang have remained actively involved in the company's evolving business strategy and technology.
But Jerry Yang as a turnaround CEO? I admit--I didn't see that coming.… Read more
In researching this post, I came across a number of recent reports on Henry Nicholas III, the once high-flying CEO and cofounder of Broadcom. The allegations of illicit sex, drugs, and rock and roll reminded me of the 60s ... or was it the 70s? Funny, I can't remember.
While the story was enthralling, I didn't understand what any of it had to do with a federal investigation into stock option backdating. Sure, Broadcom had to take a $2.2 billion charge to fix the accounting mess left by the company's former executives. But how does that relate to hiring prostitutes and drugging customers without their knowledge?
Said another way, do the feds really need to dig that deep to find enough rope to hang executives with? After all, stock option backdating is all the rage these days. You'd think they'd be up to their eyeballs in rope.
I count no fewer than 38 top executives at 19 high-tech companies that have bit the dust over this stuff. We're talking top executives at big-name companies like Apple, Altera, Broadcom, Brocade, Cirrus Logic, Comverse, KLA-Tencor, Maxim, McAfee, Rambus, Sanmina-SCI, Take Two, Trident, Verisign, and Vitesse. And we're just getting started.
That's serious fallout considering that options backdating is legit as long as the company reports it and accounts for it accurately. You see, if you backdate stock options to a date when the price of the stock was lower, then the options are "in-the-money" when granted. That means the company incurs an expense equal to the difference in the share price between the two dates.… Read more
Health-conscious gamers can finally put the Wiimote down and put away Wii Sports. Nintendo's upcoming Wii Fit uses the new Wii Balance Board controller to measure how you move as you stretch, dance, and dodge through 40 different fitness activities. Wii Sports is expected to hit stores early next year.
This is part two in a series on founding CEOs. Part one, in which I did get a bit carried away with a rotting fruit metaphor, proposed that founding CEOs typically stick around longer than they should. It went on to discuss the role and effectiveness of boards of directors in this process.
This post attempts to provide a logical framework for the key conclusions reached in the earlier post. Check it out:
Life is full of obstacles. Sometimes they're external, like earthquakes, competition, or pain-in-the-ass neighbors. Oftentimes we create our own problems. We call that being our own worst enemy. In any case, everyone faces barriers that are challenging to overcome. Sometimes we succeed, more often we don't. That goes for CEOs and companies, too.
This concept isn't limited to human behavior. It happens to animals and plants, even to planets and galaxies. Disease, draught, global warming, and intergalactic collisions are examples. In life there are biological factors, to be sure, but if you go deeper still, you find that the underlying cause is physics - thermodynamics, to be specific. It's called entropy.
Entropy - known in the human world as "s--t happens" - is actually a truth that goes far beyond car accidents and getting caught cheating. It describes an ever-increasing randomness that creeps into everything and can wreak havoc on otherwise organized systems.
Now, let's apply that to CEOs and companies. Executives spend most of their time working to meet operating goals. Time is precious and not much of it is spent anticipating and assessing external and internal strategic threats - that's consultant speak for the s--t that inevitably happens to companies.
While understandable, this means that executives often-times fail to recognize strategic threats or are not able to overcome them in time, i.e. before something bad happens that impacts operating results. That goes for both external events - such as changes to the competitive landscape, and internal issues - like technology development challenges.
Sometimes this is a one shot deal. Fine. Other times the behavior appears to be more systemic. In other words, for whatever reason, the CEO's decision-making or ability to rise to the challenges of office appear to be consistently, or at least often, ineffective. It doesn't matter why, only that it indeed happens, in fact happens to all of us. The only difference is that we are not all in a position to impact jobs, 401Ks, and shareholder value. In any case, boards are supposed to oversee CEO effectiveness and step in when that appears to be compromised.… Read more
Ever since Wii Sports got gamers off their couches and onto the floor in front of their couches, the Wii has been a big deal for health-conscious gamers. The Wiimote's motion-oriented controls keep players active as they swing, slash, and roll in different games. Now Nintendo is taking the next step in making the Wii fitness-friendly, and they're not even using the Wiimote to do it.
Bill Gates is one in a million. Most founding CEOs eventually become a liability that can destroy shareholder value faster than you can say Bernie Ebbers. They're fine for a while, and then, without warning, they go bad on you. Why not just fire them? Good question, but it's not that simple. It almost never is.
For one thing, CEOs don't come with expiration dates stamped on their foreheads. They're kind of like coconuts. Just the other day I cracked one open and it was all moldy inside. On the outside it looked perfect. But coconuts are kind of hairy so it's hard to tell. This one must have had a tiny crack somewhere, so it rotted. Who knew?
Short of cracking their heads open with a hammer and chisel, how do you know if a founding CEO has gone bad? Well, it's up to the board of directors to make that determination. And therein lies the rub. Boards are notoriously squeamish about dumping what was once a nice, ripe executive in the corporate compost heap.
It's ironic, because hiring and firing the CEO is a board's primary function. Didn't know that? That's exactly my point. Boards are so ineffective at it that lots of folks are not even aware that it's their job.
Why is that, do you think? I don't know, but maybe some directors are rotten too. I'm just thinking out loud here, but you know what lots of ex-CEOs do? They become directors of other companies. Are you starting to see a pattern here?… Read more
Hewlett-Packard filled out its boardroom with two new members.
Joel Hyatt, founder of Current Media, and John Joyce, a manging director of Silver Lake Partners private equity firm, will become directors of of the world's largest PC maker, according to a Friday SEC filing.
Hyatt co-founded Current Media, which produces Current TV, with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. He is also the founder and former chief executive of Hyatt Legal Plans. Joyce was previously at IBM, where over the course of two decades he held the positions of senior vice president of its Global Services division, chief … Read more