The figure of the CEO is almost mythical – think Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Richard Branson. There are countless articles and books written about what makes a CEO influential and what traits they have in common, and one thing seems to stand out: they’re usually odd in some way. To get to the top of their field, a CEO is not an everyday type of person, and that can come out in their personalities. Here are five CEOs that have strange, scary, and even illegal habits:
- Sandy Lerner (Cisco)
Former CEO and cofounder of Cisco Systems loves jousting, as in, the Medieval sport. She had an 800-acre farm in Virginia where she bred dozens of Shire horses, which are known for their size. To make the jousting more authentic, she had Elizabethan costumes and real lances. Her other hobbies are a little less dangerous – she collects rare books and says she’s read Jane Austen’s Persuasion more than 60 times.
- Yoshiro Nakamatsu (inventor of the floppy disk)
Inventor of thousands of pieces of technology, including the floppy disk, Nakamatsu has some odd beliefs about radio waves. He had one of the bathrooms in his house encased completely in 24-carat gold, because he believed the gold blocked out radio waves, which he claimed disrupted his creativity. He called it his “Calm Room.” He also intentionally starved himself of oxygen, because one of his greatest ideas struck when he nearly drowned. He would hang out underwater, saying that “zero-point-five seconds” before dying, he would “visualize an invention.” He even had an underwater notepad that he would write his idea on, and then resurface before passing out.
- Dov Charney (American Apparel)
Anyone who has seen American Apparel stores knows that they firmly believe in the concept that sex sells. It makes sense that the former CEO and founder is the way he is. In 2004, while a reporter for Jane magazine wrote a story on him, Charney would openly masturbate during the interview, saying that, “Masturbation in front of women is underrated.” While his behavior during this interview was supposedly consensual, though he later said he thought it wouldn’t be included in the article, Charvey faced a series of sexual harassment lawsuits during the 2000’s, including one where a woman said he had kept her as a “sex slave.” Charvey was ultimately dismissed from his position at American Apparel because of the company costs related to his behavior.
- Bob Parsons (GoDaddy)
In 2011, the CEO of the web domain company famous for its Super Bowl commercials went to Zimbabwe. While that’s nothing controversial, what he did there certainly was. He filmed himself hunting and killing an elephant, and posted it to the Internet. The video concluded with the elephant being torn to pieces for its meat while AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” blasted in the background. People were horrified, and it was revealed that Parsons also used to hunt leopards. Parsons defended himself by saying that that particular elephant had been destroying crops and was a problem, so really, he was doing a service for the villagers by killing it. Going on safaris to kill wild animals is something a shocking number of the very rich like to do, but not many make a cinematic “masterpiece” out of it.
- Travis Kalanick (Uber)
One of Silicon Valley’s biggest personalities today is Travis Kalanick, CEO of rideshare company Uber. He has a history of big talk and bigger controversies as Uber tries to go global. In 2013, a woman said a driver attacked her, and Kalanick wrote an email to his PR team saying that these type of attacks “aren’t even real in the first place.” Just recently, when Kalanick took an Uber ride of his own, the driver began talking to him about the problem of lowering fares, which had resulted in bankrupting him. Kalanick got angry, shouting out a sarcastic, “Good luck!” before leaving. Kalanick has since apologized and admitted that he “needs to grow up.” Considering that he once called Uber, “Boob-er,” because the company supposedly makes him more desirable to women, we’d say he’s correct.
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