10 career crashes for the history books

Forbes
Eike Batista
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Brazilian Eike Batista was one of the world's richest people, with a net worth of approximately $30 billion, according to FORBES estimates—but October 2013 happened.

Everyone makes mistakes from time to time and, unfortunately, one bad blunder can gravely impact your career and reputation.

That's especially true for public figures. The consequences of slip ups or scandals among politicians, athletes, movie stars or corporate executives, for example, are usually even more severe. And while some manage to bounce right back and make a full recovery, others may struggle for days, weeks, months or years to reclaim the public's trust and admiration, and reestablish credibility.

[More from Forbes: The Biggest CEO Departures Of 2013]

With help from my Forbes colleagues, I've compiled a list of the biggest career crashes of 2013. (Note: We're not saying their careers are over; we're saying they took a big hit this year.)

Here are the top 10:

1. Paula Deen

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(AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)

Who is she? Deen is a celebrity chef, cooking show television host, restaurant owner and cookbook writer.

What happened? While being questioned in a discrimination lawsuit in May, Deen acknowledged that she had used a racial epithet in the past. She testified that she "probably" used the racial slur while talking to her husband about a robbery that occurred at the bank she was working at in 1987. When asked if she had used the racial slur since then, she responded: "I'm sure I have, but it's been a very long time." However, she couldn't remember the other contexts in which she used it. Deen said in the deposition that it may have been "in repeating something that was said to me." Though Deen insisted that she and her family do not tolerate prejudice, companies like Home Depot, Novo Nordisk, Ballantine Books, The Food Network, Smithfield Foods and Wal-Mart, among others, have severed ties with the queen of butter. (The lawsuit was later dismissed.)

2. Rob Ford

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REUTERS/Aaron Harris

Who is he? Ford is the Mayor of Toronto.

What happened? In late October 2013, police announced that they had recovered a video that appears to show Mayor Ford smoking crack cocaine. A week later, Ford admitted to using the drug while in office. "Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine," he told reporters. "But no, do I, am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago." Toronto's city council does not have the power to remove Ford from office unless he is convicted of a crime—but in November, they voted to strip him of many of his powers, to cut his office budget by 60%, and to allow members of his staff to transfer to the deputy mayor.

3. Lara Logan

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(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Who is she? Logan is a TV and radio journalist; currently the chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News and a correspondent for "60 Minutes."

What happened? On Oct. 27, 2013, Logan reported a story about the 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. The report, which aired on "60 Minutes," was based on an interview with ex-security officer Dylan Davies. Davies' comments were later discredited after the New York Times informed Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of "60 Minutes," that Davies' account to the FBI was not consistent with what he had told CBS. Logan went on "CBS This Morning" the next day (Nov. 8, 2013) to apologize for the erroneous report. On Nov. 26, 2013, after an internal review of the report found flaws in Logan's reporting, she and her producer, Max McClellan, were asked to take indefinite leaves of absence. However, Fager has said that he was ultimately responsible for the mistakes associated with the report.

[More from Forbes: Flashback: 15 Big Career Crashes of 2012]

4. Aaron Hernandez

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REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Who is he? Hernandez is an American football player who is currently a free agent; he previously played for the New England Patriots and the University of Florida.

What happened? In June 2013, Hernandez's home in North Attleborough, Mass. was searched by police in connection with an investigation into the death of Odin Lloyd, whose body was found in an industrial park about a mile away from the home the previous day. About a week later, Hernandez was taken from his home in handcuffs and into police custody. That same day, the tight end was released by the Patriots, and he was arraigned and charged with murder and five gun-related charges. On August 22, 2013, Hernandez was indicted by a grand jury for the murder. He has since pleaded not guilty to all charges and is being held without bail.

5. Ron Johnson

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(Photo by Brandon Wade/Invision for JCPenny /AP Images)

Who is he? Johnson was most recently the CEO of J. C. Penney; he previously served as Senior Vice President of Retail Operations at Apple.

What happened? When Johnson was hired by J.C. Penney in late 2011, he was tasked with reinventing the century-old retail chain's image. Given his successful 10-year run at Apple, building its line of retail stores, the J.C. Penney board had high hopes for Johnson. The announcement of his transformation vision in January 2012 caused a 24% spike in J. C. Penney's stock—but, as Forbes contributor Barbara Thau put it, "Johnson's radical strategy to eliminate Penney's coupons and most sales events, and transform the store into a sea of mini shops from names like Martha Stewart and fast fashion retailer Joe Fresh, sent sales spiraling and its moderate-income shoppers through the exit door." The company's stock plunged under his leadership, and Johnson was fired as the CEO of J. C. Penney on April 8, 2013, and replaced by his predecessor, Myron Ullman. Johnson's disastrous overhaul reportedly cost the company $1 billion.

6. Howard Kurtz

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(AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file)

Who is he? Journalist, author and media critic; host of Fox News Channel's Media Buzz program; former media writer for The Washington Post and the former Washington bureau chief for The Daily Beast.

What did he do? In May 2013, Kurtz erroneously claimed in a blog post that Jason Collins, the NBA center who had recently come out as gay, had not mentioned his previous engagement to a woman. The Daily Beast's editors said that piece contained "several errors, resulting in a misleading characterization of NBA player Collins and the story he co-wrote in Sports Illustrated in which the he came out as gay." Kurtz initially tried to cover his tracks, but later issued a correction at the bottom of the post. Tina Brown, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, fired Kurtz a few days later for his "serial inaccuracy."

7. Eike Batista

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REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Who is he? Batista is a Brazilian business magnate.

What happened? Not long ago, Batista was one of the world's richest people, with a net worth of approximately $30 billion, according to FORBES estimates—but in October 2013, his oil firm OGX filed for bankruptcy protection in the largest corporate default in Latin American history. My colleague Agustino Fontevecchia reported that OGX is set to run out of cash in December unless it gets $250 million, which will allow it to push operations all the way to April 2014. "Meanwhile," Fontevecchia writes, "Batista is hurting. He is being sued, along with his company, by minority shareholders, while Brazil's SEC, known as CVM, is looking into violations of disclosure rules. His personal fortune has been decimated by the spectacular decline in his companies? stock prices, going from $30 billion to less than $1 billion."

8. Bob Filner

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(AP Photo/U-T San Diego, John Gastaldo, Pool)

Who is he? Filner is the former San Diego mayor.

What happened? Following a storm of sexual harassment allegations this summer, Filner resigned just nine months into a four-year term. Filner, who faced sexual harassment allegations from approximately 17 women, received treatment for sexual disorders in Los Angeles before pleading guilty in mid-October to a series of false imprisonment and battery charges involving three women. The 71-year-old's sentencing is set for Dec. 9.


9. Alec Baldwin

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(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Who is he? Baldwin is a stage, television and film actor.

What happened? Just five episodes in to Baldwin's Friday night MSNBC talk show, "Up Late With Alec Baldwin," he and the network parted ways. Why? The short-lived show was terminated less than two weeks after Baldwin was suspended for making homophobic remarks during a confrontation with a photographer, which was captured on video by TMZ.


10. Anthony Weiner

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REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Who is he? Weiner is a politician; former U.S. representative who served New York's 9th congressional district for more than 12 years.

What happened? In 2011, Weiner engaged in lewd online behavior. A few weeks after sending a sexually explicit photo to a 21-year-old woman via Twitter, he resigned his seat. The scandal, dubbed "Weinergate," wouldn't be his last. This year, a few months after the former congressman announced that he'd return to politics by entering the New York City mayoral race, more pictures and "sexting," allegedly by Weiner, surfaced. He said in a statement: "I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out, and today they have." Shortly after acknowledging the explicit online relationships, Weiner's campaign manager quit and Politico reported that his favorability plunged by more than 20 points, causing him to lose the lead in the mayor's race. Weiner conceded in the Democratic primary in September.


See more Big Career Crashes of 2013.


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