Chief executive officers may not have the worst job in the world, but they certainly don't have the easiest. Managing thousands of employees, a contentious board of directors or a tough market, sometimes even the most competent people have the cards stacked against them.
Take Ron Johnson, for example. An extremely adept businessman, educated at Stanford and Harvard, he helped revolutionize Apple Inc.'s retail business after years of experience at other retail companies. Ousted yesterday as CEO of J.C. Penney Company, Inc., Johnson is being replaced by his predecessor, Myron Ullman.
"On behalf of the Board of Directors, we would like to thank Ron Johnson for his contributions while at jcpenney and wish him the best in his future endeavors," said Thomas Engibous, chairman of the firm's board of directors, in a statement.
Here's more about Johnson and six other recent CEO disasters:
On Monday, the board of directors of J.C. Penney Co., based in Plano, Texas, announced that Myron Ullman, III rejoined the firm as chief executive officer, effective immediately. Ullman was CEO from Dec. 2004 to early 2012. Johnson took over, pledging to revamp the department store's business with a "Fair and Square" pricing strategy and hip new "stores" within the store.
It turned out that shoppers like sales and turning an old department store chain into something Apple-like was no small task while your sales are plummeting, your stock cratering and investors calling for your head.
J.C. Penney's earnings floundered. In February, the company said its fourth-quarter net loss was $428 million. On Tuesday morning alone, the stock fell to $14.05 a share, down 11.5 percent.
Last month, Electronic Arts Inc., based in Redwood City, Calif., announced that John Riccitiello was stepping down as CEO and board member effective March 30. The company announced that Larry Probst, his predecessor as EA's CEO from 1991 to 2007, would become executive chairman as they search for a new CEO.
In January, the company announced third quarter earnings below-guidance revenue of $1.18, lower than the $1.65 billion for the same quarter in the prior year.
In a note to employees on March 18, Riccitiello said he resigned due to the firm's financial struggles.
"My decision to leave EA is really all about my accountability for the shortcomings in our financial results this year," he wrote. "It currently looks like we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued to the Street, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago. And for that, I am 100 percent accountable."
Andrew Mason founded online deals site Groupon in 2008 when he was in his 20s. For the company's highly-anticipated initial public offering on Nov. 4, 2011, the shares were priced at $20.
After the company missed analyst expectations for first quarter earnings, Mason wrote a note to employees in February, saying he was fired.
Mason wasn't able to move the company's revenue away from the coupons fast enough as competitors flooded the marketplace and businesses complained that the coupon hounds disrupted service to regulars and showed little loyalty.
Shares of Groupon are trading around $5.92 a share, down about 2 percent.
In April 2012, former Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn resigned amid a probe into his personal conduct. It was later revealed he had an inappropriate relationship with a female employee. The next month, founder Richard Schulze stepped down as chairman after a probe found he failed to inform the board about allegations of Dunn's conduct.
The changes in Best Buy's management took place as Best Buy struggled to compete in the cutthroat electronics market against Amazon.com and Apple Inc.
Where is he now? Dunn is apparently still living in Minneapolis, according to his Twitter handle, @briandunn. His profile states: "Devoted to my: Family, Faith, Friends, Father of 3 sons, Husband, Sports fanatic! I dig books, music, movies and Retail. Student of Mankind."
Former Avon CEO Andrea Jung resigned as chief executive in 2011, then stepped down as chairwoman last year. Number three in Forbes' list of "Worst CEO Screw-ups of 2012", Jung was criticized for overseeing the company while it rejected an acquisition offer from Coty and had flailing earnings.
Where is she now? Jung sits on a number of company boards, including General Electric and Apple. In February, she was nominated as a supervisory board member for Daimler AG.
Tech company HP fired three CEOs in the span of six years. The company forced Carly Fiorina to resign in 2005. In 2010, Mark Hurd resigned after being accused of sexual harassment by a contractor.
Leo Apotheker had the title of CEO for less than one year, ousted in Sept. 2011. During his leadership, the company's stock fell as Apotheker floundered between leading the company as a software or hardware firm.
HP brought in former eBay CEO Meg Whitman as its chief executive officer. The company's stock has begun to recover, trading around $22.14 on Tuesday.
Where are they now?
Carly Fiorina is also a member of several boards, including the board of trustees for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of her alma maters. In 2007, she published a memoir. She made a run for Barbara Boxer's California Senate seat, but was defeated by the Democratic incumbent in Nov. 2010. According to her website, she lives in Va. with her husband.
In Sept. 2010, Hurd became president of Oracle Corp. and a member of Oracle's board of directors.
After HP, Apotheker reportedly returned to Paris. He sits on a number of boards. In March, he made brief headlines for talking to private-equity firms in Silicon Valley and in Dec. 2012, he was appointed chairman of the board of Danish tech firm, KMD.
Defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. announced in November that it was firing its incoming CEO Christopher Kubasik after he admitted to an improper relationship with a subordinate. Kubasik, former vice chairman, president and chief operating officer, was to become CEO in January 2013. Marillyn Hewson, who held a number of roles at the company including president and chief operating officer, became chief executive officer in January.
Where is he now? Kubasik is reportedly a trustee of the Marsico Investment Fund, which is managed by Marsico Capital Management, based in Denver.