Curious Things Powerful CEOs Have Said That Will Make You Wonder What They’re Really Up To

We love to quote the people who have “made it,” or who appear successful. We want to believe they can offer some sort of wisdom we can use. But sometimes, billionaires and CEOs say some pretty strange things. We found a few quotes that will have leave you wondering.

1. Mark Zuckerberg said some pretty insane stuff

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg was passing out personal data. | David Ramos/Getty Images

In an exchange leaked to Silicon Alley Insider, Facebook founder Zuckerberg took a shocking stance on privacy. Over instant messenger, he explained to a friend that gathering information for Facebook gave him access to Harvard students’ personal data.

Zuckerberg: yea so if you ever need info about anyone at harvard
Zuckerberg: just ask
Zuckerberg: i have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns
Friend: what!? how’d you manage that one?
Zuckerberg: people just submitted it
Zuckerberg: i don’t know why
Zuckerberg: they “trust me”
Zuckerberg: dumb f***s

Nowadays, Zuckerberg says he regrets his youthful indiscretions. “If you’re going to go on to build a service that is influential and that a lot of people rely on, then you need to be mature, right?” he said. “I think I’ve grown and learned a lot.”

Next: This CEO also let his mouth run.

2. JC Penney CEO spouted off some bizarre statements

jcpenney CEO Ron Johnson announces the new jcpenney strategy at the jcpenney launch event

He seems to have media a little backwards. | Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for jcpenney

Former JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson tried to implement some strange strategies in stores in 2013. He relaunched the company in a confusing way, which drove shoppers away from stores. The new CEO also gave some odd ideas about how the business would work, going forward. Of his advertising strategy, Johnson said:

We’re reducing the money on television. We’ll still run television and we’re investing heavily in the traditional traffic driving median, so be in the newspaper and we think that’s going to be good.

Why not, right? Relying solely on newspaper ad revenue has always worked before.

Next: Johnson also wanted to model the company after his former one.

3. What works for Apple works for everyone, right?

Martha Stewart and Ron Johnson at JcPenney Launch event

He just kept trying to bring in new partners. | Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for jcpenney

The former Apple retail guru did not exactly say he wanted to turn JC Penney into Apple. He also did not not say that. The problem lies in the difference between the two models. According to Bloomberg, Johnson saw direct parallels between the two stores.

At Apple our stores were busy when we only had Macs. Then we added the iPod; they got busier. We added the iPhone; they got busier yet. We added the iPad, and they got busier. The same thing will happen here. Next spring it’s Joe Fresh, Martha Stewart, all our new partners. It will be just like Apple: boom, boom, boom.

That did not exactly work out for him. On his watch, sales declined 23% to $3 billion, same-store sales fell 22%, and internet sales sank 33% to $220 million. All in one quarter. Ouch.

Next: Of course, Johnson remained optimistic.

4. Down is up, up is down

A sign displays a new pricing stategy at a JCPenney store

Customers aren’t really liking the new sales ideas. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Johnson also enacted deep cuts in both upper and middle management, creating what some called “a funeral atmosphere” at many stores. The upbeat CEO, however, did not see it that way. He said,

Well, for the first 10 days with our new marketing, our traffic is down 7% to last year, which is a dramatic improvement.

Right, right. That sounds an awful lot like someone else we know.

Next: The CEO also had some interesting ideas about shopping.

5. What if we put a mall inside the mall?

Signage is displayed at the entrance of a JC Penney department store inside the Manhattan Mall,

A mall within a mall? | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

When Johnson first took over, he launched a bunch of new initiatives in an Apple-style conference. He introduced ideas like in-store wrap stations and coffee bars, as well as doing away with the “sales” so many shoppers love. His biggest idea? Making JC Penney more like a mall.

What happens in a big mall of a 1 million square feet, about 600,000 square feet goes to the anchors and the common area which leaves about 400,000 square feet for the stores and the stores average 3,000 to 4,000 square feet. So, you run the math, you have about 100 to 120 stores in a typical mall we’re in. We’ll have just as many shops with inside JCPenney and that’s what we call it a specialty department store. It’s like a mall within a mall.

Turns out, the structure of the store did not actually pose the biggest problem. Customers just did not like the new “month-long savings” model. After only a few months, it brought back the word “sale.” An analyst for CITI reported 2/3 of JCPenney’s customers did not understand its new pricing system.

Next: Johnson also does not represent the only CEO who should watch his mouth.

6. T Mobile CEO also needs a filter

He took a huge bonus while thousands were laid off. | Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

T-Mobile CEO John Legere tends to speak his mind, and that did not start with his position there. In 2002, Legere joined telecommunications company Global Crossing as CEO. He received tons of criticism for raking in a $1.1 million salary, as well as a $3.5 million signing bonus while thousands of Global Crossing employees were being laid off.

As a rule, I don’t do math in public.

That’s what Legere said when asked during a Congressional hearing how many jobs could have been saved with his compensation. Not a good look for someone tasked with saving money.

Next: The CEO also has some choice words for his competition.

7. He had some choice words for AT&T

T Mobility president and CEO Ralph de la Vega discusses the company's partnership with Amazon.com during a launch event for the Fire Phone,

He said some pretty rude things about the AT&T CEO. | David Ryder/Getty Images

During a press event, Legere really laid out his feelings about T Mobile’s competitors. First, he accused them of “speaking in corporate speak.” But he reserved the best of it for AT&T. Legere said,

AT&T is a total source of amusement for me. They are the ones that take my bull***. Dumb move. They take the bait.

He also called them “fat cats that can’t move.” Then again, Legere also poked fun at AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph De La Vega. “I thought he looked better fat,” he added.

Next: You may remember this quote that became a catchphrase.

8. Things we know we know and don’t know that we don’t know

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld waves from outside the White House

Donald Rumsfeld is good at riddles at least. | Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

In 2002, then-United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke at a NATO conference about military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. What he said though, sounded more like a riddle than an actual statement.

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

What? His boss, George W. Bush, got a lot of flack for his own speech snafus. But this one probably wins.

Next: The CEO of this budget airline should really edit himself.

9. Want to sell more drinks? Fly worse.

Irish airline Ryanair's CEO Michael O'Leary poses during a press conference

He has said quite a few crazy things. | Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

The CEO of budget airline Ryanair Michael O’Leary says some ethnocentric, crass, and just plain insane things. Famous for letting his mouth run, O’Leary got real honest about flying planes and making money.

If drink sales are falling off, we get the pilots to engineer a bit of turbulence. That usually spikes sales.

Does that make you nervous to fly? Rest assured. Air travel ranks as safer than ever. Yes, even on Ryanair.

Next: The CEO also seems obsessed with money.

10. Sell, sell, sell is his motto

Managing Director of Ryanair Michael O'Leary is pictured

He wanted to make people pay to use the toilet. | Dani Pozo/AFP/Getty Images

O’Leary does not make his money-grubbing a secret. He repeatedly talks about ways the airline tries to get more cash out of its customers. “Anyone who thinks Ryanair flights are some sort of bastion of sanctity where you can contemplate your navel is wrong,” he famously said. “We already bombard you with as many in-flight announcements and trolleys as we can. Anyone who looks like sleeping, we wake them up to sell them things.” But that’s not the most insane of it.

One thing we have looked at is maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door, so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in the future. Pay-per-pee. If someone wanted to pay £5 to go to the toilet, I’d carry them myself. I would wipe their bums for a fiver.

Thankfully, Ryanair never implemented that genius idea. For all the mystery surrounding air travel, maybe O’Leary’s honesty sounds refreshing.

Next: If you like blatant honesty, check out this stunner.

11. Ryanair’s CEO thinks a lot of himself

Ryanair chairman Michael O'Leary smiles inside the engine of an aircraft

He thinks he’s Jesus. | Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images

O’Leary does not exactly keep his ego quiet, either. The CEO also thinks he should get compensated even more handsomely for it. “I’m Europe’s most underpaid and underappreciated boss,” he bragged. “I’m paid about 20 times more than the average Ryanair employee and I think the gap should be wider.” To his credit, he understands his own lack of appeal. He once told The Guardian,

People either see me as Jesus, Superman or an odious little sh**. I think I’m Jesus. A prophet in his own time.

Of course, he also thinks he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, adding “screw Bono.” Classy, Mr. O’Leary.

Next: You will not believe what he thinks of environmentalists, either.

12. O’Leary does not care much for the environment

Ryanair chief executive officer Michael O'Leary presents the annual results of the company

His goal is to ‘annoy environmentalists.’ | Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Let’s face it, air travel does not exactly rank high on the list of environmentally-friendly industries. But O’Leary seems almost proud of that. He once said,

We want to annoy the f***rs whenever we can. The best thing you can do with environmentalists is shoot them. These headbangers want to make air travel the preserve of the rich. They are luddites marching us back to the 18th century. If preserving the environment means stopping poor people flying so the rich can fly, then screw it.

He also does not think much of his fellow airline executives, calling them a “bunch of spineless nincompoops.” What a charmer, huh?

Next: His racism really stands out, even in this day and age.

13. Wait until you hear how he thinks about the rest of the EU

Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary looks at a banner the company erected outside of rival British Airways' travel shop

He makes fun of other European countries with gusto. | Sinead Lynch/AFP/Getty Images

O’Leary does not just make fun of other members of the EU. He really calls them out on the carpet. The CEO once said, “Germans will crawl bollock-naked over broken glass to get low fares.” In addition, he believes in an interesting strategy for unity.

For a start, the French have never produced a great philosopher. Great wine maybe, but no great philosophers. Ryanair is responsible for the integration of Europe by bringing lots of different cultures to the beaches of Spain, Greece and Italy, where they couple and copulate in the interests of pan-European peace.

In the same interview, he took credit for peace. “There hasn’t been a war in Europe for 50 years because they’re all too busy flying on Ryanair,” the CEO posited. Sure, O’Leary. Sure.

Next: Zuckerberg also vastly underestimated people’s altruism.

14. People care more about what than world hunger?

Mark Zuckerberg

It’s pretty tone deaf. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Writer David Kirkpatrick quoted Zuckerberg in his book, The Facebook Effect. The social media founder talked about the reasoning behind the site’s popular news feed feature. According to Complex, Zuckerberg said,

A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.

While no one disputes social media’s effect on people, that takes it a little far. Zuckerberg sounded especially tone-deaf in light of droughts in Africa at the time, crippling economies and causing massive food shortages there.

Next: This tirade really goes down as some of most profane we’ve heard.

15. ‘Just tell me it’s not Google’ wins the Internet

Steve Ballmer

He has quite a temper. | Francois Durand/Getty Images

Former Microsoft engineer Mark Lucovsky received quite a tongue-lashing when he informed his boss of his departure. Steve Ballmer threw a chair across the room after Lucovsky told him of his defection to Google. Of the Google CEO, he said,

F***ing Eric Schmidt is a f***ing pussy. I’m going to f***ing bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I’m going to f***ing kill Google.

If any of the CEOs on this list need a filter, it’s this guy. These CEOs verbal gaffes show that money can buy a lot of things, but apparently not tact.

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