The 5 Worst CEOs of All Time Who Ruined Multi-Billion Companies

CEO of a company has the highest privileges and authority in the organization. Although, a CEO is not the only one responsible for a company’s success or failure, but being the most authoritative person in the team, their decisions can mean the difference between a resurgence or bamkruptcy.

Today we discuss on the five worst CEOs of all time. These are the five people who ruined multi-billion dollar conglomerates and forced the companies to sell out for several times below their company valuation.

Nokia CEO – Stephen Elop


Stephen Elop is sometimes called a Microsoft trojan horse CEO (someone who was put there by Microsoft to work for them instead of Nokia). He has also been called the King of thieves by some of the most prominent tech bloggers. While these are just allegations and anybody would have trouble proving this in the court of law, the timeline of events that happened under his CEO-ship and the rewards he got from Microsoft certainly make the matter very suspicious.

He is called a Microsoft Trojan Horse and a King of Thieves

He was a VP at Microsoft before becoming Nokia’s CEO. As far as his leadership is concerned, he single-handedly ruined the world’s best mobile phone manufacturer and guided the company to complete failure. He was pretty good at convincing the board of directors that he was being innovative and differentiating Nokia from the bulk of Android phone manufacturers, but in reality he was only benefiting Microsoft.

Stephen Elop was a stubborn man or maybe he was just being stubborn to assist Microsoft. He used to say that Windows Phone (WP) had the potential to carry Nokia, which was still the world’s biggest phone manufacturer. In his opinion, WP was smoother and Microsoft was a big force which meant WP had to be a success and Nokia would benefit from it.

He forced Nokia to use Windows Phone – an incomplete OS at the time

However, in reality Nokia’s brand name was being used to increase WP’s market share. WP was an incomplete OS, which didn’t even have a copy & paste feature, front camera support or complete MMS support when it launched on Nokia flagships. There were literally less than 100 popular apps on Windows store.

Nokia’s brand name was ruined due to the WP platform and its market share started to decrease rapidly. Despite having the best cameras and build quality, people were preferring other brands because of WP’s immature status.

He got a lot of rewards from Microsoft after signing the Nokia deal

After joining the platform in September 2010, Elop handed over Nokia to Microsoft for a mere $7.2 billion in 2013. He was the driving force behind Nokia’s sale. In return, he was made the Head of Microsoft Devices Unit which included the Nokia business as well as other Microsoft hardware. He also got $25 million by signing the deal with Microsoft.

Yahoo CEO – Marissa Mayer

Google's Marissa Mayer Named Yahoo CEO

Yahoo was one of the oldest search engine providers and a competitor to Google. The company competed with Google for many years before Android and Google’s other ventures left Yahoo in a bad shape. Marissa Mayer was a former Google executive who joined the company in 2012. However, ever since she took over the company’s financial status went from bad to worse.

Her shopping spree included 53 companies which cost $3 billion

She hired top executives and later had them removed from the company giving away millions in compensation. Mayer spent $3 billion in a wild buying spree. Out of all the companies that Yahoo bought under her leadership only Tumblr turned out to be slightly successful. Instead of going for Netflix or Snapchat, she acquired 53 other companies during her four years as CEO. She claimed this would bring in talent, however, it only decreased the company’s cash reserves.

The worst part of this was that Yahoo forced all the companies it bought to shut down. Even a newbie strategist would know that it’s better to keep the brand names alive and slowly integrate them with the new owner company. Since they shut down all companies, the acquisitions never made anything in return.

She made all acquired companies shut down wasting all of the company’s money

Yahoo’s implied business value became less than zero just before it got sold to Verizon for $4.8 billion a few days ago. For a company, which had such a global business and spent $3 billion on mere purchases, that’s like having it for free.

Compaq CEO – Eckhard Pfeiffer


The story of Compaq and Eckhard Pfeiffer is probably the worst thing you could hear in any industry. Pfeiffer was the CEO of Compaq, a company which started in 1982 and was one of the first computer companies in the world. It had the broadest computer line on the market. In 1989 they entered the low-end server market and managed to push Packard Bell and IBM out.

His expensive expansion plans cost Compaq its market share and cash reserves

Pfieffer took over the company as CEO in 1991. The company would have done great had it stayed within its core business but Pfieffer had massive expansion plans. In 1997, he bought Tandem, a high-end server manufacturer followed by DEC, the leading mid-frame computer company, in 1998. Pfieffer decisions to expand away from the core business turned out to be bad, especially considering that the expensive brands Compaq had bought, were becoming obsolete anyway. He was unaware of DEC-owned Altavista’s value. It was the original search engine before Google and Yahoo.

As Compaq changed focus to the high-end server market, Dell and Gateway stole the low-end market share, where Compaq used to be the leader. Pfieiffer was sacked in 1998 by the board of directors. The company failed to recover as it was left lagging in the fastest growing PC market segment. Compaq was sold to HP in 2002.

HP CEO – Carly Fiorina

4/1/15 10:46:58 AM -- Alexandria, VA, U.S.A -- Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and one-time Republican nominee for Senate from California, speaks with USA TODAY Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page for Capital Download. Photo by H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY staff ORG XMIT: HB 132902 CAP Down Carly F 4/01/2015 [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

Carly Fiorina may claim that she did wonders for the company, but during her tenure, all HP got was failure, fall and more failure. She made several claims like making more jobs, increasing patents per day and making HP a leader in every market it competes to justify herself for a US Presidency candidate.

She became HP CEO in 1999 and left the company in 2005. By that time, the company had lost half its value and thousands of people lost their jobs. As soon as she became CEO, she announced to acquire Pricewaterhousecoopers for $14 billion. Wall Street wrote against it and she withdrew the deal. Soon after, IBM acquired that division for only $4 billion.

She was about to buy a company worth $4 billion for $14 billion

Some time later, she set her eyes on Compaq Computers. HP bought Compaq in 2002 for a massive $19 billion. That decision was controversial from the start as the board members weren’t satisfied, including Walter Hewlett, the son of HP’s co-founder. They said this would dilute the company’s core business, which is office supplies and printers.

They proved to be right as Dell got hold of the highly focused PC market and HP had to lay off 17,000 employees. HP’s revenues continued to decline every quarter since then.

The day Fiorina was fired, HP’s market value increased by $3 billion

Her term as CEO was best analysed by Carol J. Loomis in a 6,700-word 2005 Fortune cover story titled “Why Carly’s Big Bet Is Failing.” A few weeks after this article was published, HP board of directors fired Fiorina. HP gained almost $3 billion of market value that day after the news was made public. She was only 50 years old back then but has not managed a publicly traded company since then.

Apple CEO – John Sculley

Apple's CEO Steve Jobs (left) and President John Sculley display the hardware unveiled at the annual shareholders meeting on Jan. 24, 1984.
Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs (left) and President John Sculley display the hardware unveiled at the annual shareholders meeting on Jan. 24, 1984.

John Sculley was made Apple CEO in 1983. He considered Steve Jobs as a rival and that’s one of the reasons he is classed as one of the worst CEOs of all time.

Sculley was hired due to his immense business experience and marketing skills. His experience included heading PepsiCo and he introduced the Pepsi Challenge campaign. Steve Jobs himself forced Scully to leave PepsiCo and join Apple. Apple board thought Sculley would be a great addition to the company which had inexperienced executives like the co-founder Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs himself forced Scully to leave PepsiCo and join Apple.

Within two years, Sculley convinced the board to remove Jobs from all managerial responsibilities. Jobs also had marketing skills and this posed a threat to Sculley’s position.

Sculley’s jealousy made Apple lose billions and cost him his job

He believed in expensive marketing campaigns but he lacked technical knowledge which was needed for a company like Apple. He even launched his pet project Apple Newton which didn’t quite work out. He also ventured into the camera and CD player business which turned out as failures.

John Sculley lost his job in 1993 after bringing Apple down from an emerging giant to a tumbling computer manufacturer.

Dishonorable Mention: Volkswagen CEO – Martin Winterkorn


Volkswagen, one of the world’s largest automobile makers, was said to be cheating according to environment officials. Their cars’ software was rigged to display less emission costs in diesel cars. The company later admitted to the allegations and that it was installed in 11 million cars worldwide.

The car manufacturer’s CEO, Martin Winterkorn was allegedly the major culprit. He may have contributed in the unethical and illegal software installation process. Winterkorn admitted responsibility and resigned within the same month that the secret was revealed. However, he outright refused to that he had done anything wrong.

The man, who is known to go around car factories carrying a gauge to measure car body panel distances, was called a perfectionist. It is said that he used to individually call employees to criticise their work had they failed to meet their goals. It is difficult to understand how anyone could have kept such activity hidden from him.

Currently, the German prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation against Winterkorn and any other VW executives involved in the scandal.


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    • Marissa Mayer is not less than junk. She proved herself total disaster. I bet she will not be becoming anything in any company for the rest of her life except she makes anything at her own. I doubt that.

      • Wrong. Look at Yahoo’s history, especially the management for the 10 years before Marissa got the job. Just count the CEOs in that period and look at why they were fired before Marissa. She didn’t destroy Yahoo, Yahoo was already on its way out. She made Yahoo last longer.

        • Exactly. This article is dead wrong about Marissa Mayer. She was hired when Yahoo was already dying; kind of like when Steve Jobs was reinstated as CEO of Apple in 96/97. She couldn’t work a miracle like Jobs did with Apple, but it doesn’t mean she’s the one who killed Yahoo, it was pretty much dead in the water.

    • I hate him just because he ruined Nokia. Just imagine what wounder Nokia would have been made in Android Markete with their powerful hardware specially Cameras

      • yes and no
        yes for android market
        no for camera, you need to learn what makes a good camera phone.
        hint; you will never find sony phone on top 3 camera phones in recent years.

          • i think you didn’t understood my comment.
            same hardware on different platforms gives different results.
            if Nokia camera is great Dane camera might not be Dane on Android.
            you need to learn how many things are involved in a good camera result.
            thus my point”check Sony, you won’t find them in top 3 or 4 though top 2 using their hardware”

      • With the way Nokia was going downhill, even before Elop joined, they wouldn’t have lasted as long as they did had they went with Android. In was only Microsoft’s financial assistance which kept it afloat.

        • It was android who uplifted some sinking companies to the top. Just remember samsung’s position before and start of android back in 2010. No body was interested in Samsung Phones.

          • You must be kidding. Samsung took the whole world by storm well before Android even existed by flooding markets with phones in every price range. Samsung is the reason behind Android’s success. More people know the Galaxy brand than Android. To date, Samsung is the only OEM that’s profiting off of Android. The rest are in no better position than Nokia today.

            • There was no Samsung before android. Android was the only os that was more or less equal to ios.
              That’s my thought.

              • Huh. You must be new to the world of mobile phones. Go look up the Omnia series. And duh, of course android is like iOS because that’s what it was designed to be: an iOS clone. That’s why Steve Jobs said, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product.”

                • how Android is a Stolen product ? Steve Jobs didnt stole anything ? and Samsung’s Omnia Series used WP as there OS. and before Android, Samsung also used Symbian in some of there phones. and yes Waqar is right there was no Samsung before Android.

                • there was no samsung bfr android. Nokia was thee king. Come Onnnn bacha bacha knows that man !!

                • Wow I had never noticed how similar IOS and Android were. Both run on lots of different hardware both let you configure them almost any way you’d like and can be found on very inexpensive devices, they really are identical. I don’t know the quote you cited personally but expecting Steve Jobs to say nice things about the competition is like expecting Hillary and Donald to say nice things about each other. I:m not an Android or IOS fan or a Donald or Hillary one either. I’m just saying how clearly you made your Android is an IOS clone assertion to me.

        • You serious ? Nokia was profitable when Elop joined. Symbian^3 was doing good. things went bad for Nokia when Elop sent that burning platform memo to his employees. Who on Earth will drop worlds biggest OS for the one with less than 1% market share.

          • Lol, no it was not. Get your facts right. Nokia was bleeding money, which is why Elop was brought in. Symbian was good only for dumbphones. There was no way it could compete with iOS, and Nokia knew this which is why they decided to shelve it, and were scrambling to make Meego in partnership with Intel, but it was taking way too long. WP was only chosen as a last resort to save them from going under.

  • I don’t agree with you on John Scully as he was not solely responsible for the Apple’s downfall at that time because it was Steve’s own extra ambitious plans at that time which forced Apple out of competition… Steve’s Machines were getting expensive than what competition had to offer hence sluggish sales while all scully wanted to do was sell as much Macs as he can to keep the company afloat.

  • All companies u mentioned in the list is somehow still their in the market but Giant company like Nokia was washed out they cant even made smartphone for 2 years that’s why worse CEO is Stephen Elop and mostly people will say his name bec in the past everyone who buy a mobile phone for the first time that was nokia people love nokia Some top brain keep saying him use Android windows phones have no future but he didn’t listen and he DUMP great company lets see Nokia in 2017

    • Nokia is still alive. Mobile devices was just one of their businesses. Currently they are doing very well in telecommunication equipment business.

    • Um, Nokia is still there. And worth more than ever before. Which would not have been the case had they went with Android. See what happened to Motorola, which was also one of the pioneers in mobile phone technology.

  • there should be another article about some of the best CEO’s like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos

  • Nokia CEO – Stephen Elop
    Yahoo CEO – Marissa Mayer
    Biggest Idiots
    اتنی اچھی کمپنیاں تباہ کر دی

    • Blackberry CEO John S. Chen? Blew that huge market advantage Blackberry owned the Business Man tool.

      • Nokia, BlackBerry, Market Demand Nahi Samajh Saky or Android Phone Launch Karny Main Boht Dair Kar Di

        • What about Motorola then? They were the first ones to suck Google’s and look how it ended for them. Once pioneers of mobile phone technology, broken off and sold for chump change to a chinese company. Nokia, on the other hand, is doing better than ever, and might even make a return to phones one of these days.

  • Instead of blaming CEO’s of Nokia, & Yahoo, we may need to appreciate Google. How smartly Google kick them both out of market with single strategy.

    • Huh? What are you talking about, and why would Google even need to kick them. They do not even compete in the same fields. You have no idea what you’re saying.

        • Nope, Nokia, BlackBerry and pretty much every other phone maker out their got hit by the iPhone. Nobody even cared for Android until Samsung launched the first Nexus device.

          As for Yahoo, it was never relevant in any of those spaces in the first place, except maybe in Japan. They never had an advertising platform, were way behind both Hotmail and Gmail, and gave up on their search engine a long time ago, instead opting to use Bing search to power theirs.

  • please can you write ‘The 10 Worst leader of All Time Who Ruined Multi-Billion Dream Pakistan ‘;Mr Noora , Mr Zordari and Parwaaz

    • I think you should say if you stop innovating useful things or features or even (Deity of choice forbid) innovative things, you lose the game.

  • Brilliant article.. loved reading each and every bit of it!! Hats off to the author :)

  • In Whole Europe… card never works without password if you use anywhere.. same ATM password. not like us ..simple swapping in shops.

    2. For online transaction. website generate a pin during transaction and asks for the new pin….card is slipped into Bank’s card reader machine. >by putting Same ATM password in the reader it asks for the website generate pin> after acceptance it generate new pin and used in the website.. NO THEFT AT ALL in whole strict process.

    3. alternate is for example Swedish BankID app.. general secure app for all banks of the sweden. no online transaction is forwarded unless query is forwarded to app from website and by putting personal password in the app it makes success the transaction.

  • close