July 2, 2008
CNN money recently got together a few CEOs and asked them to share stories from their time at the top of major public corporations, and then discuss their fall. The group included David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue, the airline that stranded thousands of travelers on Valentine’s day, Jim Donald, the former CEO of Starbucks, the company that explored and eventually found a ceiling to the price sensitivity and demand for premium coffee drinks, and Ed Zander, who ran Motorola as CEO.
Each have experienced a big fall from glory in the last 12 months but from their words and the situations which I remember all being covered in the media at heart I think the world understands. It’s fascinating to hear Neeleman talks about calling his wife just after being told that he was being ousted as CEO of JetBlue only to have her interrupt him to say that her mother died. The stress is unfathomable but the story seems be told almost out of the amazement of his own ability to push through the situation. Donald mentions an evening meeting at Howard Shultz’s home that was rather short in which Howard told him of the board’s decision to replace him as CEO and then telling his wife matter-of-factly that he had lost his job. He then called his mother to explain the details.
The article gives a nice look into the personal lives and support networks behind these former top executives. It’s interesting that each focus greatly on their families and spouses when discussing the happenings immediately following their dismissals. It truly is a family effort behind many top CEOs.