Business Winners And Losers Of 2007

Caption: Newly awarded Nobel laureate Al Gore gestures as he delivers a speech during a meeting on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference 2007 in Nusa Dua on Bali island, 13 December 2007. Former US vice president Gore called on the world conference on climate change to push ahead on a deal without the United States, accusing Washington of obstructing progress in the talks. AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Jewel Samad
Could any reality TV show rival the swift falls and ignominious exits of top executives in 2007?

Call it "MBAs Gone Wild" or "Survivor: Wall Street," since the only thing missing were tribal councils of teammates talking about their deep disappointment. For instance:

BP's chief resigned after admitting he lied to a judge about how he met his boyfriend. (The truth: An escort service's Web site.)

HBO's CEO was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend in a Las Vegas parking lot. He explained in a memo to employees, "Two years ago, I decided that I could handle drinking again. Clearly, I was wrong."

WellPoint Inc.'s 53-year-old chief financial officer was defenestrated after one of the many women who said she was engaged to him sued. Among his other attachments was a pair of sisters. If you're wondering what this lothario looks like, sorry: He looks like a 53-year-old CFO.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.'s CEO left in a hurry, amid reports he'd exchanged racy text messages with underlings. (He denies it.)

Here then are the year's winners and losers, with prizes for their achievements, dubious and otherwise.

LOSER: John Browne

During Browne's 10 years as CEO of BP PLC, the company's market cap increased fivefold. But Browne also ran BP while a refinery blast killed 15 and a corroded BP pipe in Alaska led to the disastrous 2006 Prudhoe Bay oil spill.

But that's not what got him ousted. It was getting outed. Browne was done in by lying to a judge as he fought a British newspaper that was preparing to publish details of his life with his boyfriend.

Despite the black eyes BP suffered under him, it was this misstep that Chairman Peter Sutherland called "a tragedy that he should be compelled by his sense of honor to resign in these painful circumstances."

Browne's prize: Life coaching sessions with former New Jersey Gov. Jim "Gay American" McGreevey.


Al Gore, who hugs trees and does a slideshow on their behalf, cleaned up in 2007. He won an Oscar, a Nobel Peace Prize and perhaps most lucratively - a partnership working on alternative energy companies at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

While Gore has said he'll donate his salary to the Alliance for Climate Protection, he didn't mention what he'd do with stock options he earns. Typically, a venture capitalist's big windfall comes from cashing in options when companies the firm invests in go public.

His prize: A fun night out with Tipper.

LOSER: John Mackey

So, you run a company. Why not go online and post your opinions using an anagram of your wife's name?

Umm, because it might be really humiliating when people find out?

That apparently didn't occur to John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc., also known as Rahodeb, his online alias for eight years as he made detailed comments about his company and its competitors.

The Federal Trade Commission noticed Rahodeb's postings as it reviewed Whole Foods' proposed purchase of competitor Wild Oats, a company Rahodeb had slammed repeatedly and in detail.

The merger closed, but the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Mackey's postings. And Whole Foods, very quietly, tightened its online posting policies in November.

To Rahodeb, who defended Mackey's hairstyle, (exact quote: "I like Mackey's haircut. I think he looks cute!") we award a hairbrush made of organic hemp and a board with the backbone to whack him with it.