2002 article heralding the “End of the affair for celebrity CEOs” a telling tale of what was most troubling with the dot com craze: but where are these intrepid “profits of prosperity” now?
Like the most wanted posters that used to adorn the local post offices across the country, the pictures of once heralded CEOs gracing the cover of countless business magazines such as Business Week, Forbes and Time seems a fitting epitaph to a bygone era when vapor and the promise of riches trumped sound business principles and tangible revenues.
With the one female exception, the list reads like a who’s who of patriarchal has beens and never really weres, whose greatest asset was their timing and gumption more than their acumen.
Now 10 years after the dot com implosion (and just over 9 since the article was written), I could not help but contemplate the age old question of where are they now in relation to the faint reminiscences of a memorable time gone awry. Names such as Michael Cowpland, Shawn Fanning, John Roth and John Little, who once garnered headlines like The Billionaire Next Door or Macho Macchio, have now been reduced to little more than a remember who trivia contest question.
Beyond the ephemeral nature of fame itself, there is an added melancholic reflection associated with these spectacular falls because unlike any other time with the exception of perhaps the Great Depression, never has there been so much unfulfilled promise and dashed expectations. As someone who sold his software company for countless millions during this same period in time, I can speak from experience when I say that no one really believed that the party could or would end. For companies such has mine – that actually generated very real and significant profits, what transpired in the form of collateral damage is tantamount to salt in the wounds.
But alas, this is perhaps a story for another day.
In terms of this post, which will serve as the introduction to a 12-Part “Where Are They Now? What Happened To Yesteryear’s Celebrity CEOs” Series, I will focus my attention and research on those iconic and in some cases iconoclastic executive heavyweights who, after occupying the lofty heights of global recognition and universal adoration, are long removed from the spotlight.
Besides the names already referenced, this reflective journey will also include David Walsh, Jean Monty, Paul Walters, Charles Sirois, Steve Case and Gerald Levin, Jeffrey Skilling and last but not least Martha Stewart.
Note: The article titled “End of the affair for celebrity CEOs: Nearly half on magazine covers have lost their jobs” by Peter Kuitenbrouwer and Sandra Ruben appeared in the August 17th, 2002 edition of the Financial Post. Ironically, the paper had in 2000 been sold to CanWest by another fallen iconoclast Conrad Black.