A look back at some major CEO flameouts

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 9, 2013 at 4:59 pm •  Published: April 9, 2013
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NEW YORK (AP) — Ron Johnson's short-lived tenure as J.C. Penney's CEO will go down as one of the biggest flameouts in corporate America. The former Apple executive was hailed as a big thinker when he was hired by the ailing department store chain but his radical moves ended up alienating shoppers, sent sales plunging and left the company in an even worse situation.

He lasted 17 months.

But Johnson isn't the only executive to be pushed out after failing to live up to big expectations. Here's a look at some major ousters in recent times.

CAROL BARTZ, YAHOO

The Internet company hired technology veteran Bartz in 2009, with the goal of bringing in a no-nonsense leader who would develop a clear vision. Bartz shook up Yahoo's management and instituted a cost-cutting program that helped boost the company's earnings. But revenue failed to grow even as the online ad market expanded at a rapid clip.

Bartz, known for her very direct approach and sometimes-colorful language, stressed that a turnaround would take time and pleaded for patience from shareholders, pointing out that it took Steve Jobs years to revive Apple after his return in 1997.

But after more than 2 ½ years of financial lethargy, Yahoo ousted Bartz in 2011. The company's chairman fired her over the phone, according to an email Bartz sent from her iPad that was obtained by the All Things D technology blog at the time.

LEO APOTHEKER, HEWLETT PACKARD

When HP hired Apotheker in November 2010, it was seen as an aggressive push by the company into the software business. But many analysts mocked the choice, considering that Apotheker had just been forced out of his previous job as CEO of German business software maker SAP AG following ill-timed price hikes and widespread employee dissatisfaction.

Apotheker was supposed to be a steady hand to steer HP out of a tumultuous time but his strategic decisions were drastic and did little to inspire confidence. He was doomed by disappointing earnings and a fumbled announcement that the company's personal computer division was for sale. Even as he struggled, Apotheker complained that HP suffered from years of under-investment by his predecessor, Mark Hurd.

Apotheker also was one of the chief backers of HP's acquisition of British software company Autonomy Corp. HP paid $10 billion for Autonomy, but later said it was deceived by improper accounting and overpaid.

After just 11 months, Apotheker was forced out and replaced by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman.

CHARLES CONAWAY, KMART

Conaway had won many fans on Wall Street as the No. 2 executive at CVS, where he helped build the drugstore chain into an industry powerhouse. When he was hired by Kmart in 2000, Conaway inherited a company with a long list of entrenched problems, including outdated technology and drab stores.

Analysts say Conaway made strategic mistakes, such as trying to compete with Wal-Mart on price and focusing on exceedingly cheap groceries rather than on its exclusive Martha Stewart brand. In early 2002, Kmart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and Conaway resigned soon after.

Conaway also faced accusations that he misled investors about Kmart's financial problems before the bankruptcy filing.

The bankruptcy led to Kmart coming under the control of Edward Lampert, a billionaire investor. Lampert later engineered the acquisition of Sears, Roebuck & Co., combining the companies into Sears Holding Corp.

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