IT’S NOT JUST BP: EVEN THE BEST MEDIA SPINNERS CAN’T STOP SOME CHIEF EXECUTIVES FROM CAUSING HAVOC WHEN PUT IN FRONT OF A MICROPHONE
1 Gerald Ratner called Ratners’ jewellery products “total crap” in 1991. His remarks wiped £500m from the value of the firm (later renamed Signet), and “doing a Ratner” became synonymous with corporate bloopers.
2 Topman brand chief David Shepherd described his customers as “hooligans or whatever” in a 2001 interview. He clarified that “very few of our customers have to wear suits to work. They’ll be for his first interview or first court case.”
3 The fate of BP’s media chief Andrew Gowers was sealed last May, when chief executive Tony Hayward said: “I would like my life back”. A month later BP’s chairman assured victims that he “cared about the small people”.
4 The chief exec of music label EMI Alain Levy managed to insult the whole of Finland in 2002 after cutting a subsidiary in the country because there were no artists there “who could sing”. EMI’s Finnish offshoot was actually a market leader with 49 successful but annoyed musicians on its books.
5 Barclays chief executive Matt Barrett dropped a clanger in 2003 when he said he and his family would never use credit cards. He told a Treasury Select Committee that Barclaycard credit in particular was “too expensive”.