Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell., at the Sun Valley Inn for the 2011 Allen and Co. Sun Valley Conference, in Sun Valley, Idaho.
For every Sergey Brin, there is a Michael Dell. While the Google co-founder and CEO made his company one of the most valuable in the world with its shares trading near an all-time high, Dell has laid waste to his namesake. Dell and financial supporters offered to buy the company for $13.65 a share, 40% lower than what it was worth when Dell returned to the company as CEO in early 2007.
Investors who bought Dell shares a year ago have taken a haircut of more than 20%. Dell’s failure is not unique. He belongs to a group of founders of large public companies that showed great promise but were ultimately wrecked by poor decisions, legal problems, and a lack of innovation.
Perhaps the greatest hallmark of founders who ruin their companies is that they appear to look out mostly for No. 1 rather than the interests of the company and its shareholders. For starters, they accept excessive compensation.
Steve Jobs of Apple, earned $1 in salary and bonus in 2010. By contrast, Aubrey McClendon, who was recently ousted as CEO of Chesapeake Energy, made over $100 million in 2008, and remarkably large sums in the years since then. Some of his other actions, such as allegedly borrowing against assets that he co-owned with Chesapeake, raised concerns of conflict of interest.
Martha Stewart recently received a new contract from her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which has lost money four years in a row. Under the arrangement, she will continue as founder and chief creative officer at the firm until 2017. That is in addition to the more than $20 million she made over the three years that ended in 2011.
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