Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

This Year's 5 Dumbest CEO Quotes

By Rick Munarriz - Updated Apr 5, 2017 at 7:55PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

You won't believe the words coming out of their mouths.

CEOs aren't alone in saying dumb things. Presidential candidates can misjudge the health of the economy and go on to lose the election. Fed chairmen -- past and present -- often say things that they grow to regret. And don't get me started on financial journalists. The number of dumb things that Jim Cramer has said over the years is surpassed only by all the dumb things that I've written.

Thus, as an admitted expert in ill-advised statements, here are my top five picks for the year's biggest CEO gaffes.

1. Sirius XM (NASDAQ:SIRI) CEO Mel Karmazin
"The pending merger with XM will offer unprecedented choice for consumers and create tremendous value for stockholders," the satellite radio helmsman said in February, during the company's fourth quarter earnings report.

I guess we're 0 for 2 on that front, even though the corporate combination did finally go through. Instead of "unprecedented choice," the company killed several stations last month as part of the consolidation process. Instead of "tremendous value," stockholders have seen their shares plummet by 96% since Karmazin uttered those words.

2. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer
"Let's look at the facts," he said about Google Apps two months ago. "Nobody uses those things."

Let's look at another fact, Ballmer. Your company is also looking to give Microsoft Office its own ad-supported online version. Would you really imitate a product that nobody uses?

Ballmer has a bad habit of underestimating Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). "Google's not a real company," he allegedly told an employee who was defecting to the search-engine leader four years ago. "It's a house of cards."

Oh, it's a house of cards, all right. It just happens to be full of aces, at a time when Microsoft is going for a flush.

3. Lennar (NYSE:LEN) CEO Stuart Miller
"Although the Federal government has recognized that stabilizing the housing market is critical to solving the current credit crisis, the government has yet to act meaningfully to help stabilize home prices," Miller said during the Florida-based homebuilder's quarterly earnings report in September.

Yes, he said exactly what you thought he said. Even though there's clearly more air to be let out of the housing bubble, Miller self-servingly wants the government to step in and seal the bubble so that developers can start huffing and puffing again. Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL) CEO Robert Toll went on to say something similar two months later.

I feel your pain, guys, but we have a glut of vacant homes to fill up before we even begin thinking of developing new communities out in the suburbs. We'll get back to you when we're ready. Practice those bubble-blowing skills in the meantime.

4. Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) CEO Jerry Yang
"I have to say that the best thing for Microsoft to do is to buy Yahoo!," he admitted. "We are willing to sell the company."

This would have been a brilliant thing to say back in January, when Microsoft first offered to buy the company at $31 a share. It would have been even more rewarding if Yang had uttered his corporate surrender a few months later, when Microsoft's offer was briefly raised to $33 a share.

But no -- shareowners had to hear Yang say this at a tech summit in November, long after Microsoft had walked away, and with Yahoo!'s stock fetching just a third of Microsoft's highest offer.

5. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs
"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not let us ship that," Jobs said during an October presentation, after rolling out a new line of MacBooks.

That's a noble thing to say, and Apple fans might even suggest that it's a smart one, too. However, have you seen how netbooks are outselling Apple machines in the country's largest online store this holiday season?

Netbooks do carry crummy margins, but that's not the point. It may be noble to stick to healthy margins, but is that prudent if it comes at the expense of incremental profitability that might eat into Apple's own profits?

Other ways to get silly:

 If you have a favorite CEO quote from 2008, the comment box below is waiting for you.

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Yahoo! and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of dumb and smart business moves. Investors can learn plenty from both. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Microsoft Corporation Stock Quote
Microsoft Corporation
MSFT
$289.16 (2.43%) $6.86
Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
AAPL
$169.24 (2.62%) $4.32
Sirius XM Holdings Inc. Stock Quote
Sirius XM Holdings Inc.
SIRI
$6.74 (0.45%) $0.03
Lennar Corporation Stock Quote
Lennar Corporation
LEN
$87.28 (3.57%) $3.01
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
GOOGL
$119.70 (2.63%) $3.07
Toll Brothers, Inc. Stock Quote
Toll Brothers, Inc.
TOL
$48.96 (3.58%) $1.69

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
373%
 
S&P 500 Returns
122%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/10/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.