Secret Obsession #2: CEOs

So, I hope you all had just as much fun diving into SCOTUS as I did. Today we’re going to meet Alicia’s second obsession, business leaders.

Why CEOs?

I love seeing how interesting people do the insane job of running mega-companies in this crazy, mixed-up world.  This job is hard enough, but who is doing it well? Who is actually changing the narrative? How are CEOs taking their companies, whether old or new, into the new world?

And, as a deeper guilty pleasure, who are the ones who do the job SO poorly they end up in trouble with the authorities?

I first got interested in CEOs by working closely for an executive. After I got a front row view to things an executive does, I became fascinated by the people who do the same kind of thing for the biggest companies in the world. I started reading business books and became more interested in the people at the very top, whose shoulders it ultimately falls on. The blame, and the glory, usually goes the the CEO. So, I began to follow these people and pay attention to what they are currently doing.

Let’s talk about a few people who I find are really interesting to follow (their names are hyperlinked to their Twitter):

Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Boring Company) - So if you’ve been living under a rock, Elon Musk created and sold Paypal, which made him a billionaire. And he’s an eccentric billionaire, so he started to use his money to solve problems he now had the time and money to solve. He created Tesla and SpaceX. He put a Tesla convertible on a SpaceX rocket and shot it into space. One day he was sitting in LA traffic and said “Man, I wish there was a tunnel to take me from Point A to Point B” and poof, he created a company to do it, and better, called it the Boring Company. And to fundraise, they sold 20k hats and 20k flamethrowers, but then some governing body told him he couldn’t sell a flamethrower, so Elon, um, fixed it:

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But for all of Elon’s fun, playful side, he has a problematic side as well. I’m sure his board of directors cringes every time he tweets. He has been sued for slander over his tweets and the SEC recently sued him and ousted him as chairman of the board over a tweet in which he said he had funding secured to take Tesla private again at $420 a share. (Note to CEO: don’t commit securities fraud.) Still, I recommend following him because...man, it’s just such a rollercoaster.

Here’s the problem. I actually really, really wanted a Tesla until this summer when all this Twitter stuff got him in trouble. In both these instances, Tesla stock went down as a result of Elon’s negative twitter usage.  How long until Elon tweets the wrong thing and Tesla stock plummets, and/or he gets sued or ousted as CEO? Tesla can’t survive solo without Musk. If Musk goes, Tesla gets sold to the highest bidder, which would probably be one of the existing automotive companies (but the real question is, who could afford it?)

Satya Nadella (Microsoft) - I got Nadella’s book, Hit Refresh, for my birthday. It’s part autobiography -- you’ll learn how he ended up from India to CEO of Microsoft, and how, once he got the CEO job, he focused & brought vision to the company. The last 1/3rd of the book is his musings on what the next technological breakthroughs are and what they will take to achieve. (He also goes on and on about how empathy is the key idea in the next technology.) Considering Microsoft is climbing in value, and continues to come out with better innovative tech, he is one to watch.

Tim Cook (Apple) - because, it’s Apple. I don’t think I have to say any more. Although I think Apple has gone a little lazy on their actual tech and innovation, and people are noticing. (The strategy of tweaking existing technology to be just a little bit better and then bam, new iPhone, is getting really tiring.) To hear that both Microsoft and Amazon have been valued above Apple in the past week shows that Apple’s growth has really slowed down in the past few months.

Jeff Bezos (Amazon) - I’m not sure how much money YOU give to Jeff Bezos per annum, but as for me and my house….it’s a lot. Amazon Prime continues to  change the game over and over again. Jeff is now the richest man alive & his company is doing stuff that matters. (& Amazon’s recent HQ2 search could be a blog post in itself, but I love the way Scott Galloway puts it.(Also, I just love Scott Galloway in case you haven’t noticed.))

Sundar Pichai (Alphabet Inc) - Google’s parent company is one to watch obviously because of their size and scope. The recent news on Google is that they are planning to expand into China with a censored search. While I understand the why (Apple, for instance, has a huge market in China, but Google can’t tap any of the Chinese market), lots of Google employees are highly against it.

Bad-Boy CEOs:

-Mark Zuckerberg (surprise, he doesn’t have a Twitter.) (Facebook) - The Zuck has had a really bad 2018. He’s been in front of a congressional hearing, is under fire for user data misused and abused, just had quite the damning internal document release, and currently has the English parliament breathing down his neck (after declining to meet with their version of a congressional hearing.)  I call it, Facebook will take a sharp nose-dive and will be a shell of its former self in 5 years. We have already past the peak of Facebook’s life. Now, they DO also own Instagram and Insta isn’t going ANYWHERE. But Facebook? The only people who are excited about Facebook are 45+.

-Carlos Ghosn (Nissan & Mitsubishi) - Carlos, Carlos, Carlos. His home is currently a Japanese jail cell, because the Nissan CEO is being held on withholding taxes. While different people are reporting different things, basically, Carlos took a salary as normal for a CEO -- somewhere along the lines of $7 million a year, but he also either hid money in “retirement accounts” or established millions in IOUs every year, and authorities are now saying totaled $35 million. As CEO, he can set his own pay, but no one wants to be that jerk who raised his own salary, so he kept the regular $7mil the same while steadily raising the annual amount he paid to his retirement fund. And of course, he never paid taxes on that retirement account, and Japan wants their money. (He can’t play dumb either; there’s evidence he knew he was supposed to pay taxes and didn’t.) While it’s still unclear exactly why no one knew for years or how exactly he hid the money, Carlos is being charged with hiding $35mil from tax authorities, and the police are finding more money as the investigation is continuing.

I had fun. I hope you had fun. Maybe next week we will continue with this...series? I dunno if I’m comfortable calling it a full-on series yet.

Where’s the women?

You’ll notice I don’t have any women on this list. I did pay close attention to Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, but she is stepping down. I did read Ivanka Trump’s book Women Who Work & thought it was really great, even if she does spend easily a tenth of the book congratulating herself on running a successful company. (Although I have to say for the record, I’m not a fan of her dad. I do like her.) And Youtube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki is a woman, but I figured I would talk about her more in my eventual YouTube-related blogs. The only other woman exec I really know about is Sheryl Sandberg, who is COO of facebook, but, well, she’s not super popular right now with Facebook’s Bad Year.


Some business-related things I like:

Podcasts:

Pivot

HBR Podcasts (I specifically like IdeaCast and After Hours)

Freakonomics (especially their Secret Life of a CEO series)

Publications:

Wall Street Journal

NY Times

And literally just following all the above people on Twitter.

Happy Tweeting!