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CEOland is a wondrous kingdom. Denizens of this lofty realm can do no wrong, even when they do wrong, and since they can do no wrong, there can be no punishment.
If you’re not quite clear on this concept, meet Vin Gupta, the founder and CEO of a giant database outfit named InfoGroup. It’s a publicly-traded corporation owned by thousands of shareholders, but Gupta packed the board of directors with cronies and has treated the Nebraska-based company more like GuptaGroup, using its revenues as his personal piggy bank.
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For example, on the side, he owned another outfit called Annapurna Corporation that did business with InfoGroup. It appears that Annapurna received millions of dollars in payments from InfoGroup to provide use of a jet plane, an 80-foot yacht, condos in Hawaii and California, and a skybox for University of Nebraska ballgames. While InfoGroup shelled out the bucks for these pricey toys, it was Gupta who got to play with them. The CEO also dipped into the corporate kitty to provide a $3.3 million consulting contract for his old political pal, Bill Clinton.
Shareholders have sued, regulators are investigating, three directors have been asked to resign, and two top officers have been reassigned – yet Gupta has kept his job. Oh, he did have to pay back some money, he had to give up the yacht, and InfoGroup’s general counsel must now sign off on any of his personal perks and any consulting contracts he hands out. But the bottom line is that he’s still CEO, still drawing his multimillion-dollar annual pay, still enjoying the skybox and condos, still being Mr. Chief-Executive-Officer-Who-Can-Do-No-Wrong.
The moral lesson here is clear: Don’t bother teaching your children the difference between right and wrong – teach them the path to CEOland, where they can do no wrong.
“CEO’s antics should have cost him his job,” St. Paul Press, July 27, 2008.