Dumbest Moments in Business: 2003 Edition

Business 2.0 has out its annual list of the 101 dumbest moments in business from the prior year. Here are a few:

1 (TIE) Two greedy Richards.

Richard the First In August, the board of the New York Stock Exchange decides to give CEO Dick Grasso his $139.5 million pension up front, ostensibly to save the estimated $10 million it would cost to deliver the payout at retirement. Grasso offers a succinct if not altogether satisfying explanation: “I’m blessed.” When a firestorm erupts over Grasso’s payday, he graciously agrees not to take another $48 million he has coming to him. Then, a week later, Grasso “resigns”—and quickly claims he was fired, which entitles him to another $58 million, including the $48 million he had promised to forgo.

20 Hmmm. Maybe you should’ve gotten the hint by the 3,168,453rd time we closed one of your pop-ups without reading it.

After years of bombarding Web surfers with annoying pop-up ads, wireless camera maker X10 files for bankruptcy in October, listing debts of more than $10 million. Among the parties stiffed: AOL, Google, Yahoo, and AdvertisementBanners.com, which won $4 million in a lawsuit against X10 shortly before the bankruptcy filing.

26 Next time, try lifestyle-oriented and emotional and cool — and creditworthy

After marketing its sporty Eclipse coupe to 20-something slacker types through a mix of ultrahip ads and zero-percent financing, Mitsubishi Motors announces a $469 million loss from loan defaults. New CEO Rolf Eckrodt says the company’s mistake was “aiming at customers interested in products which are lifestyle-oriented and emotional and cool.” The fix? Aiming at customers with money. The move looks good on paper—just not the paper on which the company’s books are kept. After tightening up credit requirements, Eclipse sales fall by 48 percent, forcing Mitsubishi to spend another $432 million to clear out unsold inventory.

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