A recent news article published in the Guardian states that Musk, Zuck, SBF: the lousiest tech bosses of 2022 – rated.
America’s top tech CEOs
It’s been a pretty good few decades for America’s top tech CEOs, as their supposed brilliance turned them into billionaire oligarchs with cultlike followings. But in 2022, things suddenly looked a bit bleaker.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta and Jeff Bezos’s Amazon reportedly cut thousands of workers. Elon Musk, once hailed as a genius, has revealed a truly impressive level of incompetence at Twitter. Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced to more than a decade in prison. And then there’s Sam Bankman-Fried, who recently became a household name for disastrous reasons.
In a year of nightmarish tech industry headlines, an important question remains: which delusional egomaniac had it worst? Here are the results of our investigation.
Year in review: The one-time boy genius isn’t looking like such a wunderkind these days. In late 2021, Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook wasn’t dystopian enough for him: the company was changing its name to Meta and running full-speed into the metaverse, an imaginary, goggle-dependent world where until recently people had no legs. A year later, while Zuck has kept screaming about virtual reality, Meta’s fortunes have plummeted.
In February, Zuck’s company made history for the wrong reasons: its stock price dropped by $230bn (£190bn) in a day, a national record. Nine short months later, Zuckerberg told employees he’d misjudged the fickle winds of business: “I got this wrong and I take responsibility for that.” In an admirable demonstration of such personal accountability, he fired 11,000 other people.
February also saw Meta’s first drop in users, and indeed, opening Facebook in recent years has felt like visiting the ruins of Pompeii. Elements of a once thriving society remain perfectly preserved, all but forgotten as time marches relentlessly on: TikTok, TikTok.
The bottom line: Yes, Zuck lost $30bn (£25bn) on that fateful February day, but he might just be able to squeak by on the $44.5bn (£36bn) he’s still got.
Terrible year score: 6/10.
Year in review: Zuck was far from the only tech boss to see his workforce shrink this year. Amazon also announced layoffs, with the New York Times reporting 10,000 jobs could be cut. Meanwhile, perhaps unhappy that his ex-wife was making headlines for huge charitable donations while he maintains a reputation as Dr Evil’s closest real-life analogue, Bezos showed up on CNN to tell everyone that he would give away the majority of his then $124bn (£103bn) net worth during his lifetime. Imagine living on less than $62bn (£51bn)! It’s a win-win for Bezos: an apparently selfless gesture that will presumably have no discernible impact on his life.
One of those generous donations: $100m (£83m) – .08% of his wealth – to Dolly Parton, to donate as she pleases. Giving your money to the world’s most beloved country star is the kind of under-the-radar move that says: I’m doing this to heal the world, not to heal my image.
It’s not the only time Bezos threw himself at a universally adored celebrity this year: when he flew into space in a rocket shaped like a penis, he brought along Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. Unfortunately for Bez, rather than singing the praises of space, Shatner later said the trip “felt like a funeral”, comparing the “vicious coldness” above with “the warm nurturing of Earth below” – not an ideal advertisement for Bezos’s bid to colonize the galaxy.
In fact, he’s struggling to colonize your living room. His own employees recently told Insider that Alexa, the company’s voice assistant, was “a colossal failure of imagination”. Bezos’s “pet project” is being “gutted”.
The bottom line: A series of embarrassments haven’t knocked Bezos off his perch as one of the richest men in the world.
Terrible year score: 4/10.
When it started to look like the sale might really happen, Musk decided that actually, maybe he didn’t want the site after all. But the company wouldn’t let him off the hook, and after a legal battle, he finally went through with the purchase, leading to another of his hilarious jokes: he carried an entire sink into the company building, apparently risking a hernia so he could tweet: “Let that sink in”.
That serious and thoughtful attitude has defined his tenure at Twitter so far. In a bid to create a Twitter 2.0 that no one asked for, he has erased thousands of jobs; made up new rules and then canceled them; demanded that employees be “extremely hardcore”, which may explain the beds at the office; reinstated the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Roger Stone; tried to reinstate Donald Trump; reinstated Kanye West, then banned him again; and banned, then reinstated, journalists. The mayhem has shattered his reputation on the left, but on the far right, the cult around him seems only to be getting stronger: the level-headed folks over at QAnon apparently now see him as one of them.
He topped off the year by taking a highly scientific poll of users to see if he should quit as CEO. They said yes. Let that sink in.
The bottom line: From the outside, it looks like a catastrophe – but Musk shows every sign of enjoying himself.
Terrible year score: 7/10.
Year in review: At the beginning of the year, the future looked bright for Parag Agrawal. He’d just become Twitter’s new CEO after receiving the board’s “unanimous” support.
Then came Musk.
Though the two had a cordial relationship at first, it quickly deteriorated as they clashed over Musk’s purchase of the platform. When Musk wanted to investigate the extent of Twitter’s bot problem, Agrawal explained in detail why the plan wouldn’t work; in another example of consummate professionalism, Musk, then age 50, replied with an emoji depicting fecal matter.
Musk finally followed through on his Twitter purchase in October. He immediately fired Agrawal.
The bottom line: Agrawal lost his job, but thus far he shows no clear indication of being evil and his exit may have earned him $50m (£41m).
Terrible year score: 7/10.
Year in review: 2022 was the year that the long Theranos disaster finally came to a head.
It all started in 2003, when Elizabeth Holmes founded the company; the next year she dropped out of Stanford. Like so many other young students, she was chasing a dream – a dream to pretend to invent a really cool technology and make a billion dollars off it. But almost 20 years after she founded the company, Holmes began this year with a conviction for defrauding investors over her company’s supposedly revolutionary blood-testing system.
Maybe it really was about the friends she made along the way. Those include Senator Cory Booker, one of more than 130 people to send letters of support for Holmes before her sentencing. She’s also developed a diehard fan club, with supporters showing up at the trial in full Holmes costume.
Still, she ended the year with an 11-year sentence. So she’s a shoo-in for worst year, right?
Year in review: Wrong! Because there’s Sam Bankman-Fried, who swooped in at the end of 2022 in a strong last-ditch effort to claim the title. His cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, was on top of the world a few short months ago, running ads during the Super Bowl and proudly displaying its name on the Miami Heat’s arena.
But by November, the company had collapsed. A few weeks later, Bankman-Fried had been arrested in the Bahamas and charged with what a prosecutor called “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history”.
It was an unbelievable turn of events: what could be a sounder investment than a company built on a thing few understand, while others worship it with bizarre fanaticism? At least Bankman-Fried, like Zuckerberg, is taking full responsibility – “I fucked up,” said the 30-year-old, who had allegedly used an encrypted group chat that was literally called “wirefraud”.
The bottom line: It’s hard to say whether Holmes or Bankman-Fried has had a worse year. But the fact that there’s any competition tells you plenty about tech and obscene wealth.
Terrible year score: 10/10, for both.
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Source: The Guardian