Biggest Business Blunders of 2006?

I received an interesting email from Eric Gertsman over at Global Fluency inviting me to ask you, my faithful readers, to pop onto his survey and vote for worst business blunder of 2006.
Here’s the link: Biggest Business Blunder of 2006, The Survey
I’m intrigued by his choices, however, and thought it’d be fun to comment on the various selections he’s made. In particular, I’m interested in which were the result of one person having bad judgment and which are the result of industry-wide stupidity…

  1. First off, why am I not at all surprised that in our modern “mock reality TV” world that a major publisher would agree to produce and publish a book by O. J. Simpson, ostensibly about how he got away with the murder of his wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman? I know how publishing works, and this was most assuredly not just one person making a mistake. The decision to publish the book If I Did It was the result of a chain of decisions, from acquisitions editors to copy editors, publishers to group managers, legal to executive management. They should all be darn ashamed of themselves and be taking the time to really think about what’s right and wrong, not what makes money. [firm: ASX:NWS]
  2. Options backdating at companies? That’s just widespread greed, there’s no way around it. Every company that engages in such practice should, again, look in the mirror and ask if they’d want to invest in companies with executives such as themselves at the helm. I’m particularly disappointed in Steve Jobs, frankly. [firm: Nasdaq:AAPL]
  3. Hewlett-Packard and its wildly inappropriate and illegal investigative techniques to try and figure out which of their board members was leaking information to the press? Gad, that’s my vote for the worst of all these blunders, personally. Maybe it’s because I used to work at HP and then worked with Walter Hewlett that I feel particularly close to the company, but for a cornerstone of the Fortune 500 to be saddled with a string of bad executives who make such bad decisions that they embarrass the company and fall into black ops, well, it’s like some sort of bad melodrama. Except it’s true. Shame, shame. [firm: Nasdaq:HPQ, commentary: 1 and 2]
  4. Google censors itself for China. This isn’t a blunder at all, in my opinion, and believing it is a blunder seems a lot like cultural imperialism, if you ask me. [firm: Nasdaq:GOOG, commentary: 3]
  5. Wal-Mart and blogging? That’s just stupid public relations, and is no different from the more recent situation with Sony having a Playstation Portable-focused blog that was ostensibly written by a kid who really wanted to get a PSP for Christmas. Fortunately, I think most people are smarter than PR folk believe and we see through this sort of transparent silliness. [ref: NYSE:WLM, commentary: 4]
  6. Finally, Amaranth Advisors stumbling and making bad trades? That’s widespread in the stock and bond industry, in my opinion, and while it’s useful for BusinessWeek, Fortune, etc to publish their list of best and most successful funds, it’s often far more useful to see their list of least successful funds, some of which take scary, frightening plunges into the red.

That’s my two cents. My vote for worst blunder is HP’s clumsy and inappropriate investigation into its Board of Directors malfeasance. What’s yours?

One comment on “Biggest Business Blunders of 2006?

  1. Dave, #1 is the one for me. I don’t blame Simpson for wanting to publish a book that is purported to be a work of fiction (who can blame an alleged liar and criminal, anyway?), because he’s got some pretty hefty bills to pay.
    But what scares me the most, as you said, is the fact that this book was even considered in the first place.
    The whole machine that was behind this gigantic mess is to blame — from the publisher and its lawyers, to Simpson’s ghostwriter who actually accepted the job and even leaked a draft of the book to the media before it was made public… for money.
    (It could have been worse if Simpson’s publishers, in some PR stunt, decided to funnel some of the profits from the book to some charitable organization, such as, goodness forbid, one helping victims of spousal abuse. Judging from the publisher’s perceived innocuousness in selling such garbage, this wouldn’t have surprised me in the least.)

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