Management Links
MANAGEMENT: Blunders & Failures

"Profitability is the Key to Value. If You've Got it, Flaunt It. If You Don't Have It, Get It (business strategy). If You Can't Get It, Get Out (capital strategy)."

--- Bill Fruhan, Professor of Finance, Harvard Business School, author of: Financial Strategy: Studies in the Creation, Transfer, and Destruction of Shareholder Value.

2001 - Record 263 Chapter 11 filings; 2008 - record for largest bankruptcy filings (Lehman Brothers Holdings with $691.1 Billion in assets, Washington Mutual with about $327.9 Billion in assets at the time of filing; WorldCom, 2002 filing, third largest with $103.9 Billion in assets).

October 2008 - Biggest Corporate Bankruptcies - 1. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Sept. 15, 2008: $639 billion; 2. Worldcom Inc., July 21, 2002: $103.91 billion; 3. Enron Corp., Dec. 2, 2001: $63.39 billion*; 4. Conseco Inc., Dec. 18, 2002: $61.39 billion; 5. Texaco Inc., April 12, 1987: $35.89 billion; 6. Financial Corp. of America, Sept. 9, 1988: $33.86 billion; 7. Refco Inc., Oct. 17, 2005: $33.33 billion; 8. Global Crossing Ltd., Jan. 28, 2002: $30.19 billion; 9. Pacific Gas and Electric Co., April 6, 2001: $29.77 billion; 10. UAL Corp., Dec. 9, 2002: $25.2 billion; 11. Delta Air Lines Inc., Sept. 14, 2005: $21.8 billion; 12. Adelphia Communications, June 25, 2002: $21.5 billion; 13. Mcorp, March 31, 1989: $20.23 billion; 14. Mirant Corp., July 14, 2003: $19.42 billion; 15. Delphi Corp., Oct. 8, 2005: $16.59 billion; (* Enron assets were taken from its quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Nov. 19, 2001; the company announced that the financials were under review at the time of filing for Chapter 11. (Sources: New Generation Research, Inc., AP Research,

(Baring), Helga Drummond (2008). The Dynamics of Organizational Collapse: The Case of Barings Bank. (New York, NY: Routledge, 143 p.). Professor, Organisational Learning, Behaviour and Change, University of Liverpool Management School. Leeson, Nicholas William; Barings Bank; Bank failures -- Great Britain; Merchant banks -- Great Britain; Organizational behavior -- Case studies; Corporate culture -- Case studies; Organizational effectiveness -- Case studies. High-level, multi-theoretical analyses, psychological and sociological theories to explore events of Nick Leeson’s employment with Barings' in Singapore in 1992 to Barings' collapse in 1995.

(Coca-Cola), Donald R. Keough (2008). The Ten Commandments for Business Failure. (New York, NY: Portfolio, 208 p.). Former President, COO at Coca-Cola; chairman of Allen & Company. Business failures. Responsible for New Coke fiasco; how companies get into trouble, believe in infallibility; "how-not-to" book; commandments: Quit Taking Risks; Be Inflexible; Assume Infallibility; Put All Your Faith in Experts; Send Mixed Messages; and Be Afraid of the Future; "anyone who follows my formula will be a highly successful loser."

(One. Tel), Paul Barry (2002). Rich Kids: How the Murdochs and Packers Lost $950 Million in One.Tel. (Milsons Point, N.S.W.: Random House Australia, 392 p.). Murdoch, Rupert, 1931- ; Packer, Kerry; One.Tel (Firm); Telecommunication--Australia; Business failures--Australia.

Bill Adler, Jr. and Julie Houghton (1997). America's Stupidest Business Decisions: 101 Blunders, Flops and Screwups. (New York, NY: Quill, 238 p.). Consumer Goods, Product Management, Brand Management.

Merrill R. Chapman (2003). In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters. (Berkeley, CA: Apress, 252 p.). Computer software industry--Management--Case studies; Computer industry--Management--Case studies; Business failures--Case studies.

Paul B. Carroll, Paul B., Chunka Mui (2008). Billion-Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn From the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years. (New York, NY: Portfolio, 320 p.). Former Reporter (The Wall Street Journal); Former Chief Innovation Officer at Diamond Management and Technology Consultants. Business failures; Management. Lessons from managements of companies that lost millions (if not billions) in pursuit of strategies that led to big losses; most significant failures of last 25 years: 750 bankruptcies, major writeoffs, discontinued operations; #1 cause of failure - misguided strategy (not sloppy execution, lack of leadership, bad luck); categories of strategies: 1) synergy, 2) financial engineering, 3) rollups, 4) staying the course, 5) adjacencies, 6) riding technology, 7) consolidation.

Matt Haig (2003). Brand Failures: The Truth About the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time. (Sterling, VA: Kogan Page, 310 p.). Brand name products--Marketing; Brand loyalty; Brand choice.

Robert F. Hartley (1987). Bullseyes and Blunders: Stories of Business Success & Failure. (New York, NY: Wiley, 253 p.). Industrial management--Case studies; Marketing--Management--Case studies; Success in business--Case studies; Business failures--Case studies.

Jill Herbers (1994). The Business Disaster Book of Days: The World's Greatest Financial Mishaps, Follies, & Remarkable Events. (Seacaucus, NJ: Carol Pub. Group, 162 p.). Business--Humor.

Calvin L. Hodock (2007). Why Smart Companies Do Dumb Things: Avoiding Eight Common Mistakes in New Product Development. (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 357 p.). Professor of Marketing at Berkeley College, Adjunct Professor at Stern School of Business (New York University). New products. Eight typical innovation blunders that doom new product development: misjudging market, "dead-on-arrival products", "fatal frugality", "timetable tyranny"; why such mistakes occur: breakdowns in marketing research process, marketing dishonesty, lack of real-world preparation among newly graduated MBAs, CEOs under pressure to deliver unrealistic earning targets, clueless boards of directors, general absence of accountability; dire consequences to investors, employees.

Adam Horowitz and the editors of Business 2.0 (2004). The Dumbest Moments in Business History: Useless Products, Ruinous Deals, Clueless Bosses, and Other Signs of Unintelligent Life in the Workplace. (New York, NY: Portfolio, 208 p.). Industrial management--History--Anecdotes; Business failures--History--Anecdotes; Business history--Anecdotes.  

Eds. Forest W. Horton Jr. and Dennis Lewis (1991). Great Information Disasters: Twelve Prime Examples of How Information Mismanagement Led to Human Misery, Political Misfortune and Business Failure. (London, UK: Aslib, 218 p.). Errors, Popular -- Case studies.

Philip J. Kaplan (2002). F'd Companies: Spectacular Flameouts. (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, p.). Business failures--United States--Case studies; Internet industry--United States--Case studies; Electronic business--United States--Case studies. See also John Cassidy ("Dot.con").

Danny Miller (1990). The Icarus Paradox: How Exceptional Companies Bring About Their Own Downfall: New Lessons in the Dynamics of Corporate Success, Decline, and Renewal. (New York, NY: HarperBusiness, 306 p.). Business failures--United States--Case studies.

Paul C. Nutt (2002). Why Decisions Fail: Avoiding the Blunders and Traps that Lead to Debacles. (San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 332 p.). Emeritus Professor, Faculty of Management Sciences, Fisher College of Business (Ohio State University). Decision making. 400 decisions made by top managers (products and services, pricing and markets, personnel policy, technology acquisition, strategic reorganization); 2 of 3 decisions based on failure prone, questionable tactics; key errors, successful alternatives.

James Robert Parish (2006). Fiasco: A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops. (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 368 p.). Motion pictures--California--Los Angeles--History; Motion pictures--United States--Plots, themes, etc. Most sensational failures in modern Hollywood history.

Tim Phillips (2011). Fit to Bust: How Great Companies Fail. (Philadelphia, PA: Kogan Page, 210 p.). Business Journalist and Broadcaster. Business failures; Management; Business failures -- Case studies; Management -- Case studies. Disastrous decisions - what happened, why, what could have been differently - overexpansion, failure to do due diligence, blindness toward economic bubble; why smart people make bad decisions; how changing one decision could have helped avoid disaster (Enron, Polaroid, WorldCom, Woolworth).

David A. Ricks (1983). Big Business Blunders: Mistakes in Multinational Marketing. (Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin, 158 p.). Export marketing; International business enterprises.

--- (1999). Blunders in International Business. (Malden, MA: Blackwell Business, 172 p. [3rd ed.]). International business enterprises--Management--Case studies; Business failures--Case studies

Joel E. Ross and Michael J. Kami (1973). Corporate Management in Crisis; Why the Mighty Fall. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 263 p.). Industrial management--United States--Case studies; Big business--United States--Case studies.

Scott A. Sandage (2005). Born Losers: A History of Failure in America. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 384 p.). Associate Professor of History (Carnegie Mellon University). Social values--United States--History--19th century; Losers--United States--History--19th century; Failure (Psychology)--United States--History--19th century; Capitalism--Social aspects--United States--History--19th century; Identity (Psychology)--United States--History--19th century; Stigma (Social psychology); Social status--United States--History--19th century. 

Jagdish N. Sheth (2007). The Self-Destructive Habits of Good Companies…And How to Break Them. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing, 304 p.). Charles H. Kellstadt Chair of Marketing in the Goizueta Business School (Emory University). Success in business; Business failures--Case studies; Industrial management. 7 bad practices that can lead to failure (denial, arrogance, complacency, incumbency, competitive myopia, volume obsession, territorial impulse). 

Robert Sobel (1999). When Giants Stumble: Classic Business Blunders and How to Avoid Them. (Paramus, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 350 p.). Business failures--United States--Case studies; Success in business--United States--Case studies. 

Ed. Daniel F. Spulber (2002). Famous Fables of Economics: Myths of Market Failures. (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 312 p.). Elinor Hobbs Distinguished Professor of International Business and Professor of Management Strategy at the Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University). Business failures--History; Economic policy--History.

Walter Stewart (2005). Belly Up: The Spoils of Bankruptcy. (Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart, 293 p.). Bankruptcy--Canada; Bankruptcy--United States; Corporate debt--Canada; Corporate debt--United States; Faillite--Canada; Faillite--États-Unis; Sociétés--Dettes--Canada; Sociétés--Dettes--États-Unis.

Trevor Sykes (1988). Two Centuries of Panic: A History of Corporate Collapses in Australia. (Boston, MA: Allen & Unwin, 593 p.). Business failures--Australia--History; Corporations--Australia--History; Businesspeople--Australia--History.

--- (1996). The Bold Riders: Behind Australia's Corporate Collapses. (St. Leonard's, NSW, AU: Allen & Unwin, 654 p. [2nd ed.]). Business failures--Australia; Capitalists and financiers--Australia; Corporations--Australia.


Business History Links

101 Dumbest Moments in Business                                                                                                                                                                  

In a perfect world, a list like this would not exist. In a perfect world, businesses would be run with the utmost integrity and competence. But ours is, alas, an imperfect world, and if we must live in one where Enron, Geraldo Rivera, and Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes exist, the least we can do is catalog the absurdities.

The Museum of E-Failure                                                                                                                                                                             

The Museum of E-Failure bears witness to the dot.bomb phenomenon, presenting the last images of the front pages of failed Websites. Steve Baldwin, who maintains the site, explains, "It is my hope that these screenshots may serve as a reminder of the glory, folly, and historically unique design sensibilities of the Web's Great Gilded Age (1995-2001)." The sites are arranged in a long list, with recent additions on the top of the page. Clicking on a site name brings up a screen shot of the site's farewell front page. A sort of virtual graveyard, the Museum of E-Failure represents a memorial on the side of the information highway.


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