Founders Who Were Ousted From Their Own Companies

We’ve all heard some amazing company success stories. The people that slept on the floor of an apartment for years until finally coming up with their one great idea. The people that mortgaged their house and put it all on the line on a gut feeling. But what we don’t often hear are the people who finally made it to the top and were later forced out of their own company. You know the saying if you love something set it free? Well, these people didn’t have a choice. From Men’s Warehouse to Facebook, here’s a list of people that were fired from the companies they founded. Do you know what happened to the founder of American Apparel?

Andrew Mason (Groupon)


Photo Credit: Fast Company

Andrew Mason started the website Groupon back in 2006 which was then launched in 2008. After becoming wildly successful, the stock price fell to $2.93 and founder and CEO Mason was fired in 2013. He wrote a resignation letter which started off by saying “After four and a half intense and wonderful years at Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why…you haven’t been paying attention.” He went on to accept responsibility for the company’s failures in the years leading up to his termination. Since then, he has released a seven-song album of motivational business music called Hardly Workin.

Whitney Wolfe (Tinder)


Photo Credits: Getty Images

In 2012, Wolfe co-founded the dating app Tinder with Sean Ra and Chris Gulczynski. She became the vice president of marketing and was reportedly behind the naming of the app, taking the idea from the flame logo and using tinder in order to start a fire in her father’s cabin. She has also been credited for fueling the popularity of the app on college campuses and other user bases. Wolfe then left the company in 2014 and filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment. Then, she used her settlement from Tinder to help start Bumble, another dating app that gives women more control over the communicating and matching with a partner.

Jerry Yang (Yahoo)


Photo Credits: Forbes

In 1994, Jerry Yang along with David Filo founded the internet directory that we all know today as Yahoo. Through the 2000’s the website was booming, and the company raised nearly $22 billion in market capitalization. However, the company began to experience some serious issues with the rise of Google as well as other search engine sites. Yang was also criticized for turning down an offer from Microsoft to buy Yahoo for $44.6 billion. It was because of this, as well as other company changes that led to Yang stepping down from his position in 2009. He remained on the board until 2012 when he left completely. He then went on to become a mentor to technology startups as well as an investor, funding more than 50 startups.

George Zimmer (Men’s Warehouse)


Photo Credits: Getty Images

George Zimmer founded Men’s Warehouse in 1973 where he served as CEO until he stepped down from the position in 2011. After stepping down, he was the executive chairman of the company’s board until 2013, when he was then forced to resign after a disagreement with the rest of the board concerning business strategy. It was noted that Zimmer “had difficulty accepting the fact that Men’s Warehouse is a public company with an independent board of directors and that he had not been the chief executive officer for a manner of years.” Since then, Zimmer founded Generation Tux, which is a high-end clothing rental company where he serves as Chairman and CEO.

Dov Charney (American Apparel)


Photo Credits: Getty Images

In 2014, Dov Charney, the founder of the American Apparel clothing company was forced out of his business for the misuse of company funds, as well as misconduct. Over the years, there have been numerous sexual allegations made against him, so it was only a matter of time until he was forced to hand over American Apparel. Now, after failing to win his company back, he has started a new T-shirt company named Los Angeles Apparel with some of his old colleagues from American Apparel. In 2016, he told Business Insider that the company could hit revenue of $30 million in a year. He’s still working on the new project today.

David Neeleman (Jet Blue)


Photo Credits: Getty Images

In 1999, former Southwest airlines employee David Neeleman founded a new airline named Jet Blue. He acted as CEO and even made Jet Blue the only airline to make a profit after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. Throughout the years, the airlines experienced success as well as failures up until 2007, when Neeleman was forced out of his position of CEO and was replaced by David Barger. So, the following year he went on to start Azul Brazilian Airlines which he still runs today. He also runs Vigzul, a home security, and monitoring company.

Robert Kalin (Etsy)


Photo Credits: The New York Times

In 2005, Robert Kalin started, an e-commerce website where people can sell their handmade, vintage, and craft items. He managed to establish the company while living alone in a woodshop with his three cats. Since the site’s inception, it has grown to over $1 billion in transactions and Kalin has left the company twice. Once in 2008 and again in 2011. In 2011, it was assumed that Kalin “stepped away” because there was speculation about his ability to scale the growing company, and he left control of the company to its co-founder Chad Dickerson. Now, he’s chasing his passion for art with a community of like-minded artisans.

Aubrey McClendon (Chesapeake Energy)


Photo Credits: NBC News

McClendon founded Chesapeake Energy back in 1982 and was once the highest-paid CEO of all S&P 500 Chief Executives. As CEO of the company, he was incredibly successful and brought in over 20% net returns in his 20 years in the position. However, eventually, his shareholders turned against him when they began to disagree with his vision for the direction of the company. This forced him to step down as Chairman in 2012 and eventually as CEO in 2013 for allegations of self-dealing and questionable business practices. In 2016, the day after his indictment after being accused of violating antitrust laws, he died in a car accident where suicide still hasn’t been ruled out.

Jack Dorsey


Photo Credits: Vanity Fair

In 2006, Jack Dorsey founded Twitter along with Ev Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass. Dorsey then continued to run the company as CEO until 2008. In 2008, Williams then took the chief executive title which was understood to be because Dorsey’s main focus was on product over revenue and was said to spend more time chasing his other passions other than Twitter. Dorsey returned back to Twitter in 2011 as executive chairman and head of product development when Williams was replaced by Dick Costolo. Now, his role at Twitter isn’t very big or time-consuming as he now has time to work on his other products such as Square, Inc, the mobile payment company.

Steve Jobs (Apple Inc.)


Photo Credits: Getty Images

Not everyone knows, but Steve Jobs was actually kicked out of Apple Inc. In 1985, Steve Jobs had managed to build Apple into a company worth more than $1 billion. However, due to conflict with John Sculley, the CEO he hired, Apple’s board of directors exiled Jobs from the company. During his “hiatus”, Jobs founded Pixar as well as another start-up called NeXT. Jobs returned to Apple in 1996 when Apple acquired NeXT. He would go on to become CEO and release products such as the iPhone, iPod, etc. making Apple one of the most successful companies in the world. He stepped down in 2011 for health reasons and sadly passed away in October of the same year.

Daniel Zappin (Marker Studios)


Photo Credits: Variety

In 2009, Daniel Zappin co-founded the YouTube multichannel network and online video producer Marker Studios. The company was founded in Venice, California and was one of the first content providers on YouTube to reach 1 million views. By the end of 2012, Marker was one of the top 5 networks on YouTube with over 2 billion views per month. In 2013, Zappin was then forced to resign from the company in 2013, where he then filed a lawsuit against the board claiming that they had conspired against him to remove him as CEO and dilute his holdings. In 2014, Zappin went on to start and become the first CEO of Zealot Networks, a new digital media company which he still runs today.

Martin Eberhard (Tesla Motors)


Photo Credits: Wired

Although the name Tesla has become synonymous with the company’s CEO Elon Musk, people have forgotten or haven’t even heard of engineer Martin Eberhard. In 2003, his passion for sports cars and engineering skills helped to start Tesla Motors. He served as the CEO of the company up until 2007 when he was then asked to step down and transition to the advisory board for a reason not released to the public. in 2008, he cut ties with the company and filed a lawsuit against Tesla and Musk which was settled in court. Currently, Eberhard is working on a new startup focusing on electric vehicles. Do you remember Eduardo Saverin from Facebook?

Eduardo Saverin (Facebook)


Photo Credits: Getty Images

Back in 2003, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg asked his friend and fellow Harvard student Eduardo Saverin to deposit $15,000 into a bank account that they could both access in order to fund the serves for the new website Eduardo agreed, essentially making him the co-founder of the company. Once Facebook was well underway six months later, Eduardo was still the company’s Chief Financial Officer until Zuckerberg diluted his stake from the company and cut him out of Facebook. Eduardo then filed a lawsuit against Facebook which was then settled in court. He now owns 53 million Facebook shares, lives in Singapore and has been funding and working on start-ups ever since.

Sandy Lerner (Cisco)


Photo Credits: Getty Images

In 1984, while working as Director of Computer facilities for the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Lerner went on to co-found Cisco Systems with her now ex-husband Len Bosack. In 1988, Lerner and Bosack brought in John Morgridge to be the third CEO of Cisco. Then, two years later on August 28, 1999, Lerner was fired for her supposed lack of sales knowledge, and her husband then quit in order to show support. The two then sold all of the stock for $170 million and walked away from Cisco. She then took her money and launched the cosmetics company Urban Decay as well as runs an organic farm and restaurant.

Richard Thalheimer (The Sharper Image)


Photo Credits: SF Weekly

Richard Thalheimer started The Sharper Image back in 1973 as an office supply store. In 1977, he discovered a waterproof runner’s watch which he decided to market as well. He took out an ad in a Runners World and began to market and sell gadgets. Over time, The Sharper Image became one of the nations major high-tech gadget stores. In 2006, a hedge fund company bought many of the companies shares and installed three shareholders on the board. The board members and Thalheimer butted heads almost instantly and he was removed from the CEO position in 2007. Yet, The Sharper Image filed for bankruptcy nine months later and Thalheimer opened up a new tech company

Harvey Weinstein (Miramax)


Photo Credits: Getty Images

In the late 1970s, Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob created a small independent film distribution company named Miramax after their parents Miriam and Max. The company rose to fame and achieved Oscar recognition while Weinstein became a prominent name in the film industry. Weinstein was co-chairman from 2005 to 2017. However in October 2017, following numerous allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape led him to be fired by his companies board as well as expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Over 50 women had come forward and made allegations against Weinstein and led to a wave of similar allegations against other powerful men around the world. This is known as the “Weinstein effect”.

J. Mario Molina & John C. Molina (Molina Healthcare Inc.)


Photo Credits: The New York Times

In May 2017, Molina Health Care Inc. fired J. Mario Molina and John C. Molina, the CEO and CFO of the company. The company was started back in 1980 by their father Dr. C. David Molina which is a Long Beach-based health insurer of nearly 5 million customers in 12 states and Puerto Rico. Apparently, it was a long time coming for this move made by the board, and the company’s shares soared as much as 20% after J. Mario Molina had been fired. The company cited the reasoning for firing the two brothers as being due to poor financial results. Do you use Uber as much as we do? Find out what happened to one of its co-founders.

Travis Kalanick (Uber)


Photo Images: Getty Images

In 2009, Kalanick joined up with Garrett Camp to create Uber, the mobile app that connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services. Although he was a co-founder of the company, he gives Camo “full credit for the idea”. However, in June 2017, five of Uber’s major investors demanded that the chief executive resign immediately. The investors wrote in a letter that Kalanick stepping down would “give the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber’s history”. They also noted that Kalanick had set a tone in the workplace involving sexual harassment, discrimination and that a change had to be made.

Richard M. Schulz (Best Buy)


Photo Credits: Catholic Schools Center of Excellence

In 1966, Schulz mortgaged his home and founded an audio equipment store named Sound of Music. The company went on to expand to nine stores until one was destroyed by a tornado. He then had a “tornado sale” at one location with a large selection of goods at low prices. The sale was such a hit that he renamed the chain Best Buy and changed the business model and expanded greatly. As we know the store became a huge success for electronics and appliances. Then, in 2012, he was forced to step down as chairman after it was discovered that he knew that the CEO was having an affair with an employee and did not alert the audit committee.

Mike Lazaridis (Blackberry)


Photo Credits: The Verge

Mike Lazaridis founded BlackBerry Limited in 1984 back when it was still known as Research in Motion Limited. Throughout the years, he grew the company by riding on the success of the BlackBerry smartphone which was extremely popular among celebrities and business executives in the mid-2000’s. With the rise of other popular smartphones such as the iPhone and more, BlackBerry began to struggle, and in 2012, Lazaridis stepped down from the CEO position. He then became the Vice Chairman of the company, yet, 10 months later, he left the company entirely after the release of the BlackBerry 10.