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Some CEOs benefit their companies by cultivating positive, even eccentric, reputations. They end up as popular heroes, like Patagonia's rock-climbing founder Yvon Chouinard, or philanthropic hall-of-famers, like Oculus' Brendan Iribe.
And then there are the controversial CEOs. These are the bosses whose actions and words are more likely to leave the public shaking their heads – and investors questioning where they put their money.
Here's a look at such business specimens who, throughout 2016, made some particularly questionable statements…
The Five Most Controversial CEO Quotes from 2016
- Marc Benioff on "Apple vs. Samsung": Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM) CEO Marc Benioff caused a Twitter stir on Aug. 27 with one simple retweet (as opposed to a Twitter post expressing his own organic opinion). The original tweet, which Benioff later shared, belonged to basketball coach Dennis Marshall and said, "Crazy seeing Apple trying to catch Samsung. Battery life, waterproofing, blue color, front led light, & curved screens. Samsung set the standard." The CEO's regurgitation of this sentiment had tech-savvy media analysts scratching their heads. They struggled to digest his apparent preference of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (KRX: 005930) products over those made by Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), especially considering the bad press from which the South Korea-based Samsung has suffered all year. After all, 2016 brought with it the massive Samsung Galaxy Note 7 explosion scandal. Hundreds of users have filed lawsuits over the past 12 months claiming their smartphones blew up while in use, with photos of their phones' charred remains as proof. Still, a Salesforce spokesman confirmed to CNET on Aug. 28 that, yes, Benioff himself had performed the retweet — from an iPhone, no less — though he couldn't confirm whether it reflected the CEO's precise personal views.
- Lloyd Blankfein on Sen. Bernie Sanders: Blankfein, longtime CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS), didn't like that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) used him as a symbol of the "greed of Wall Street" during a January speech he gave on the Senate floor (entitled "The Face of Class Warfare"). Sanders lambasted the CEO for "lecturing the American people" on cuts to government programs (think Medicare and Social Security) after his bank received $814 billion in bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis. Blankfein responded to Sanders' accusations via a CNBC interview in February: "[Sanders' address] has the potential to be a dangerous moment," the big bank CEO said, "not just for Wall Street, not just for the people [who] are particularly targeted, but for anybody who is a little bit out of line." That's right, the Goldman boss admitted he was worried for bankers who were just "a little bit out of line."
- Satya Nadella on Uncle Sam: "We are hoping that there is a new framework of law that allows, in fact, our government in the United States to get the right balance between privacy and public safety," Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella told a group of tech luminaries on why his company sued the U.S. Department of Justice in April. The lawsuit alleged that the government's frequent practice of attaching gag orders to search warrants for customer data violates the U.S. Constitution. In simpler terms, Nadella was explaining why Uncle Sam should give Microsoft easier, faster access to users' online data. Meanwhile, Microsoft's Windows 10 was still under public scrutiny after media outlets revealed in January the program had – and used – embedded spying software. Still, Nadella pointed fingers at the government: "The onus is on the United States to get that right," he said, "because we are, after all, the beacon that everyone else will look to. If we get [the balance between privacy and public safety] right, every other democracy will look to us as a model."
- Mark Zuckerberg on Donald Trump: Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg gave an impassioned opening speech at the social media giant's F8 developer conference on April 12. He lunged right into a diatribe attacking then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his supporters for fostering a culture of fear in the United States. "As I look around and I travel around the world," Zuckerberg said, "I'm starting to see people and nations turning inward, against this idea of a connected world and a global community. I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others. For blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, reducing trade, and in some cases around the world even cutting access to the Internet." After Trump won the election on Nov. 8, disenchanted voters blamed Facebook for spreading fake news that purportedly resulted in the real estate mogul's victory. In fact, false information dispersal was so bad during the election cycle that it even prompted President Barack Obama to shame the social media giant. He called Facebook a "dust cloud of nonsense."
This next high-powered CEO's statement prompted a controversial backlash from another business bigwig over the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif…
- Tim Cook (and special guest CEO) on the FBI: "We did not expect to be in this position, at odds with our own government," Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook told a crowd at a company event on March 21, "but we believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and your privacy." Cook was referencing the battle between the iPhone-maker and the U.S. government that played out publically earlier this year. That's when Apple refused to break its own security measures to unlock the phone used by one of the terrorists in the San Bernardino attacks. The fight originally started on Feb. 16, when a California magistrate judge ordered the tech giant to create a customized version of iOS to allow access to the attacker's encrypted phone. Apple immediately objected to the proposal, characterizing it as both dangerous and unconstitutional. Tim Cook's refusal prompted another major U.S. CEO to make an arguably controversial statement of his own: John McAfee, inventor of one of the most widely used computer antivirus programs in the country, wrote a Business Insider op-ed on Feb. 18, in which he promised, "I will, free of charge, decrypt the information on the San Bernardino phone, with my team [for the FBI]."
The "Golden Rule of Trading" says that we have to cut our losses short and let our profits run.
But when we're in the middle of a big winner, the question becomes, "When do I take profits?"
Here's the precise answer to that question in what might easily be the most important profit-taking lesson of 2016 (and 2017 as well)…
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