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6/25/2014
08:07 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
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After Ballmer: 8 Execs You Love To Hate

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer created the kind of love-hate relationship that tech users can't resist. These tech bigwigs can bring it like Ballmer.
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Steve Ballmer was like the star of his own reality show -- tears, laughs, crazy stunts, and business deals that brought weekly drama. Whether he was pretending to stomp on an employee's iPhone to make a point or crying on stage, Ballmer attracted attention and headlines, as well as his fair share of haters.

It was never going to be easy for anyone to follow Bill Gates, and despite his significant business success, Ballmer has always been shrouded in controversy. Ballmer was too interesting to simply hate. He created the kind of love-hate relationship that is sort of fun to have, much like how you hate a rival sports team.

With Ballmer retired, I decided to think about some of the current technology leaders who could fill his shoes as the guy (or gal) you love to hate. I didn't want to just make a list of people nobody likes -- that's too easy. It's hard to imagine that former Paypal CEO and Facebook investor Peter Thiel, for example, had many fans after he announced he didn't support a woman's right to vote. But there's nothing fun about that.

What I looked for are complicated figures -- people who are probably a real hoot at dinner but who, because of business reasons, interesting character flaws, honest disagreements, or an amusing inability to keep their mouths shut, offer us endless entertainment. Dig into our slideshow for a list of executives I think can bring it like Ballmer.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
6/25/2014 | 9:48:52 AM
Zuckerberg
I don't hate Zuckerberg, but I don't like his influence on privacy. He once said that personal privacy was dead. When someone with as much influence as him believes that, it gets a bit scary, especially when there's already enough government surveillance going on to fill up zetabytes of storage. 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/25/2014 | 10:14:06 AM
Re: Zuckerberg
Must say, I took some passive-aggressive enjoyment when Zuck's personal pix (of him in a family member's kitchen, if I remember correctly) hit the news a year or two ago. Not that I think it was right of someone to share his personal photos without his permission; I don't. But because this type of activity happens over and over to individuals who don't have public recognition, but who are equally embarassed when their personal information or pix are displayed or shared without permission by someone else. Of course, Zuckerberg's not responsible for human nature. But complex, ever-changing ToS; complicated processes to disconnect from FB, and rules that favor advertisers not users don't make it easier.
Number 6
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Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
6/25/2014 | 10:22:45 AM
Mayer & Telecommuting
I second the Marissa Mayer selection because of all the other tech firms' CEO's and HR departments that decided to jump on the "no telecommuting" bandwagon. This only a few years after many actively encouraged home offices to reduce their office leasing costs. And how's that been working out for Yahoo anyway? Did the results justify the further blow to employee morale?
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
6/25/2014 | 10:52:49 AM
Re: Zuckerberg
Zuckerberg is the one who jumps out here. While you have to admire his ability to create Facebook and thrive as a businessman, he does not inspire much trust. People loved to hate Ballmer because he was sort of a buffoon, at least in some regrettable public appearances (I don't think he was really a buffoon), and he was just too much of a salesman. Zuckerberg doesn't have the same hang ups as Ballmer, but he does appear sneaky and disingenuous, and clearly has little respect for personal privacy. The fact that's he's so wealthy and successful at such a young age doesn't help. Though people shouldn't begrudge him that -- he earned it.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2014 | 11:03:53 AM
Re: Zuckerberg
I agree...I think the disregard for personal privacy is why most people dislike Zuckerberg. He doesn't seem to do much to defend privacy and his company always seems to be backtracking on privacy policy issues. In other words, whenever a new privacy policy is issued, the MO is to get as much info as possible until users revolt and then roll back some of the new policy until users calm down. You would think that after so many user revolts over Facebook's privacy policy, the company would figure out how to get it right.
Emery
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Emery,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2014 | 11:42:31 AM
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison
Is he on the no love list? He is on my never trust list.
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
6/25/2014 | 11:56:36 AM
Re: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison
Oh geez, I second that! With licensing fees and schemes and lockins worthy of a Sith Lord, Ellison is a definite contender for this list.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
6/25/2014 | 12:40:40 PM
Re: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison
He should have taken first place. It's so irritating this guy, who started by producing cheap knockoffs of IBM relational databases for mainframes, got to where he is now by basically buying other successful companies. Especially in the ERP space, as mentioned in other comment he has raised maint fee trolling to an art form. And this from customers of people like JD Edwards, who had no intention of ever being Oracle customers.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
6/25/2014 | 1:06:33 PM
Re: 8 Execs You Love To Hate
Love this list, Dave. Good to see you haven't lost your penchant for picking great pictures. Is it bad that I knew the article was yours as soon as I saw that (legendary) picture of Ballmer on the front page? I suppose not - I found it listed at the top of 'top stories', after all! People love this stuff, and you can certainly count me among them. You know a character when you see one, and even though I never had my ear pressed to the floor that hard beforehand, I knew as soon as Ballmer was announced as the next CEO that we were in for a good time.

On a less pessimistic note, I am curious to see what happens next for Microsoft. As you say, nobody will be able to fill Bill Gates' shoes, and it's very possible that anyone who sits in that chair will be hated no matter what. Then again, we've really only had one CEO since then, so it's hard to be so sure. It's fair to say that Ballmer was a special case - he had established history with the company, he had a one-in-a-million personality, and he was more of a business guy (presumably, future CEOs will be more tech people). Maybe his successor will be given a clean slate.. but we'll have to see what they do with it. Either way, I suspect we're in for a good time once again.


Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/25/2014 | 1:09:26 PM
Re: Mayer & Telecommuting
@Number6: I'm ambivalent on Mayer. On the one hand, I get why she's reviled by many working parents. I'm not a fan of reality TV in general, but I would very much like to see Marissa Mayer appear on an episode of "Wife Swap" in which she gets to live with a family that is struggling to make ends meet. I wonder if she'll think it's so easy to be a working parent then. 

Anyone who can afford to build a nursery in their office and pay a staff of people to help with childcare and household chores should avoid making any public proclamations about what it's like to be a working parent. 

On the otherhand...many of us are so acculturated to men in senior positions having wives (and staff) to handle all household and childcare needs that we don't even question it. So--if all circumstances at Yahoo were exactly the same, except for the fact that the CEO was male, would we feel as strongly negative about the no telecommuting policy?
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