The noted Wall Street Journal columnist uncovers the tectonic power shift in the corporate C-suite of the last five years -- one that has made the life and tenure of today's CEO nasty, brutish, and short -- and uncovers how the Internet and politicized shareholder groups will forever change how CEOs perform their jobs.
Count them: Franklin Raines, Michael Eisner, Carly Fiorina, Harry Stonecipher, Hank Greenberg, Morgan Stanley's Phillip Purcell. These chief executives, each running one of the sixty largest companies in America, were each removed against his or her will in the span of the same year.
The facts in each case vary. Stonecipher, a short-timer as CEO of Boeing, was fired after a wild workplace fling that began at the company's annual executive retreat. Greenberg, chief executive of the insurance company AIG for almost four decades, was ousted under the pressure from New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer because of an investigation of the company's accounting irregularities. Fiorina and Eisner came under attack from shareholders; Raines was the target of a newly empowered government regulator.
But taken together, they signal a tectonic shift in the underpinnings of power in corporate America. The imperial CEO is gone. In its place is a new, and often messy, system of board rule, in which a group of people, many of whom have relatively little experience in business, are holding sway over corporate titans, and in which an array of new interest groups -- shareholders, regulators, hedge funds, employees, and labour unions -- are learning to successfully flex their muscles.