Suppose you knocked a cool $32 billion off the value of your company, trashed its long-term strategy, and thoroughly confused your customers, employees, and shareholders. Most of us would be taken out and shot, but ex-HP CEO Léo Apotheker, who practically destroyed one of Silicon Valley's oldest companies (after doing the same to SAP), walked away with more than $7.2 million in severance and benefits. What a bozo!
But Apotheker was hardly the only tech bozo to (dis)grace 2011. Indeed, the past year was the Year of the Bozo, with CEOs, pundits, and bloggers sharing the honors.
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We all know that Canadians are nicer than we are, but niceness alone doesn't cut it. The RIM twins, co-CEOs Jim Balsillie Mike Lazaridis, spent the year foundering and failing as one thing after another went wrong, from outages to product stumbles.
The twins have given us a lesson in how to take a great brand -- BlackBerry, a product that everyone in government from Barack Obama on down and in business once used -- and turn it and the company that invented it into a zombie. The worst moment of the year came back in October when a series of outages freaked out users across the globe. And how pathetic was the apology issued by Lazardis, who said the company was "not even close" to keeping its commitments to users?
Nearly as pathetic was the PlayBook tablet, the product that was supposed to Research in Motion back in the game. As my colleague Galen Gruman put it: "The BlackBerry-tethered tablet can't do very much, and its tethering requirement means few users can actually use it." Ouch.
World's most obnoxious tech journalists
I'm not a media critic. But the antics of one Michael Arrington were so egregious, so offensive, so utterly outrageous that he has to be included in any list of bozos in the world of technology. You might remember that Arrington founded TechCrunch, which gained a good deal of influence as it scored scoops and delivered news of Silicon Valley startups.
The success went to Arrington's head, and by all accounts he became a bully, threatening to blacklist little companies that didn't give him their news first and exclusively. Bad as that was, Arrington scored a 10-plus on the Bozo Meter when he insisted that he would continue to invest in stocks that he and his colleagues were covering.