BBC Capital

Eight dismissals that made headlines

  • Henrique de Castro

    This week, Henrique de Castro, Yahoo's chief operating officer unexpectedly departed the company just over a year after he was hired by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Mayer had hired de Castro from Google, where she had also been an executive, shortly after she took over at Yahoo.

    De Castro was charged with turning Yahoo's advertising business around. "However, the company has failed to significantly increase advertising revenues for its website and mobile applications," according to a BBC News report.

    BusinessWeek magazine reported that "in a memo to employees, Mayer said she made the decision that de Castro should leave, according to a person who saw the note and asked not to be identified because it wasn’t made public. There had been friction between the two executives for at least six months, another person said."

    de Castro's departure could be costly for Yahoo. "Castro is one of Silicon Valley's most highly-paid executives and may receive a multi-million-dollar severance package," BBC News reported.

    (Sebastien Nogier/Reuters)

  • Abel Lenz (fired by Tim Armstrong)

    On 9 August, AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong (pictured above) fired one of his managers in front of about 1,000 employees on a company-wide conference call — ironically the call was about impending layoffs at local news network

    “Abel, put the camera down. You’re fired. Out,” said Armstrong in the leaked audio of the chat, dismissing Patch creative director Abel Lenz for pulling out a camera during the meeting. After an awkward five-second silence, Armstrong continued his meeting; he reportedly referenced the firing again five minutes later, when he explained that he saw the company as a “sports team’s locker room”, and that he didn’t want anyone “giving the game plan away”.

  • Andrew Mason

    The resignation letter of the CEO of Groupon went viral after Andrew Mason sent the following to his employees at the online coupon site: “After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding — I was fired today. If you’re wondering why … you haven’t been paying attention” (read the entirety of the memo here). Instead of waiting for a leak, Mason published the email himself. He was roundly applauded in technology circles for the “equal parts funny, open and candid” nature of the message, and has since gone on to pursue his passions as a musician, releasing a motivational, apparently autobiographical rock album with song titles including “Groupon Farewell Memo”, “Risin’ Above the Pack” and “The Way to Work”.

  • Vikram Pandit

    Fresh off a positive earnings report, chief executive of Citigroup, Vikram Pandit, walked into a meeting entirely unprepared for the three news releases in front of him. The first said that Pandit had resigned, effective immediately; the second stated he would resign at the end of the year, and the third said he had been fired without cause. Completely blindsided, Pandit took the first option. Although the exit was publicly characterised as Pandit’s decision, a New York Times account days later revealed how the firing happened — and how new Citi chairman, Michael O’Neill, seemed to play a direct role in orchestrating Pandit’s resignation. (Getty)

  • Rick Wagoner

    Rick Wagoner served as chairman and chief executive of General Motors for nine years before being ousted in 2009 at the request of US President Obama himself. General Motors had hemorrhaged with Wagoner at the wheel, with the company losing more than $80 billion in the last four years he led the company. But it still came as a surprise when the White House interceded directly. At a Washington meeting with Obama’s autos task force, Steven Rattner — one of the president’s top auto advisers – asked Wagoner to step down, effective immediately. Wagoner’s friend and colleague for more than 20 years, Fritz Henderson, was tapped to take his place.

    “This was definitely the worst way I could think of to take on this job,” Henderson told the New York Times. “It was an exceptionally painful weekend.” (Getty)

  • Sallie Krawcheck

    Two years after she was tapped to be president of the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America, Sallie Krawcheck was ousted from the position as part of a top-level restructuring between Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. The silver lining to Krawcheck’s dismissal? A neat $6 million severance payment. She went on to a burgeoning media career doling out wisdom to women in the workplace and speaking out about the responsibilities of financial advisers to their clients. (Getty)

  • Jared Keller

    In what was characterised by Business Insider as “The Great Social Media Implosion of 2013”, Bloomberg social media editor Jared Keller was fired from his position after another ousted social media editor, Matthew Keys, publicly tweeted old private direct messages from Jared Keller — whom Keys believed had played a role in his dismissal.

    Keller tweeted, “Today was my last day at Bloomberg. It was a great run at a great company.” He has since become social media lead for digital news at Al Jazeera America.

  • Teresa Sullivan

    Staff, faculty and students at the University of Virginia were dumbfounded in June, 2012, when they received an email stating president Teresa Sullivan was stepping down due to a “philosophical difference of opinion”. This came after a scandal-free two years at the post for Sullivan, who had excelled in prior administrative positions at the University of Texas and the University of Michigan.

    As shock turned to outrage, something unusual happened: students and faculty condemned the decision to oust Sullivan and publicly protested her dismissal. Later in that same month, a politically appointed body overseeing the university reinstated Sullivan to the position. She told the New York Times several months later that she still didn’t know why she was ousted in the first place. (Getty)