Steve Jobs might be the most well-known example, but plenty of departed chief execs wind up coming back to pick up the reins.
Sean Rad was demoted from CEO to president at Tinder five months ago after he was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit. Now he’s back in the old digs. While his return might induce some head scratching, turning the old boss into the new boss isn’t (generally speaking) a unique move for a business.
Companies sometimes find through even the most exhaustive search that it’s the person they know who is the best fit for a job, Matthew Bidwell, a professor of management at University of Pennsylvania Wharton School toldKnowledge@Wharton in an article published last year.
“Ideally, you want someone who knows the industry, someone with a clear idea of the company, and someone who has senior level experience,” he said. “There is a sense that being the CEO is a job like no other. You are dealing with a wide array of issues and are also the public face of the company, and it’s hard to know whether someone can do it until someone has done it. Twitter Your prior CEO is one of those few people.”
Over at Tinder, the situation was apparently something like that. Christopher Payne, who had replaced Rad, said in a statement quoted in the Wall Street Journal that he and Tinder had “mutually determined that this wasn’t going to be optimal and thought that a quick transition served everyone best.” Rad’s legal issues aside, the move makes some sense given the dating app’s parent company The Match Group isheaded for an IPO.
Before Rad, there was Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell, and more recently Jack Dorsey. And don’t forget Howard Schultz and Larry Page… the list goes on. Here are some of their stories.
The most recent high-profile return was that of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey to his position as chief executive. The swap out with Dick Costolo in June followed a spat of post-IPO user growth issues for the company, according to Re/code. Dorsey reportedly said his reinstatement in an interim capacity was not a result of company performance but of Costolo being ready to move on. The move has left Twitter in a bit of a lurch in terms of permanent executive leadership, especially as Dorsey awaits the IPO of the other company he leads, Square.
NBC referring to Starbucks as a “struggling chain of coffee houses” is a bit hard to imagine now, thanks in part to Howard Schultz replacing Jim Donald as CEO in 2008. Schultz had previously held the role from 1987 to 2000. He has continued in his role as chairman since resuming his post as CEO. The day after Schultz was reinstated, the stock jumped about 8 percent–it had been down 50 percent the year prior. After taking back the helm, he was known for making personal phone calls to stores to see how things were going and for the first time in the company’s history, seeking advice from outside consultants, according to Business Insider.
The Dell founder’s decision to seize back control of the computer company he founded as a startup from his college dorm was “a sign of the crisis facing Dell” the Wall Street Journal reported at the time. Buying behavior in PCs was going through a transformation in 2007 when then-CEO Kevin Rollins was swapped for his predecessor. The SEC was investigating the company’s accounting practices and several executives had jumped ship, CNET reported at the time. Michael Dell bought out the company two years ago.
Larry Page ceded the role of CEO at Google to Eric Schmidt in 2001, then resumed the executive role in 2010. Schmidt still continues as executive chairman, now for Alphabet. Quartz called this “lost decade” for the company’s cofounder “the best thing to ever happen to Google.” Page returned to the role with a fresh vision, learning for example that encouraging senior managers to argue wasn’t a successful leadership tactic.
Perhaps the most iconic and triumphant return was that of Steve Jobs, who “left” the company he co-founded in 1985. (The story goes that then-CEO John Sculley fired Jobs, but Sculley has at points denied that that was the case.) When Jobs returned in 1997 to become, as he said at the time, “interim CEO,” the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. “At that point, only Steve Jobs could have revived the business. There’s no way I could have ever done the things Steve Jobs did,” Sculley later told CNN. You probably don’t need to be told what happened next. You know, the iPod, iPad, iPhone, and per Bloomberg a market capitalization that catapulted from $3 billion in 1997 to $350 billion in 2011.