In business, the art of the insult seems to take its cue from Sun Tzu's The Art of War in which he advises, "Appear weak when you are strong and strong when you are weak." Business leaders may not always pay attention to the former piece of advice, but they always remember the latter. That may be the reason why Steve Jobs continued to make scathing remarks about Apple (AAPL) until his return to the company or why Martha Stewart chose to critique America's newest culinary sweetheart after her own image was damaged post-prison time.
Steve Jobs Takes a Bite Out of Apple
The late Steve Jobs has made some of the most cutting and memorable remarks about his then-former employer, Apple.
"It is hard to think that a $2 billion company with 4,300-plus people couldn't compete with six people in blue jeans," Jobs said of Apple's lawsuit against him and other ex-Apple employees who left to form Next in 1985.
Just before Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he made this ringing endorsement of the company: "Their Products Suck. They have no sex in them anymore!"
Jamie Dimon Glad He Was Born in the USA
JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon has put himself on the defensive recently, saying at a World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that regulators were not doing anything practical to protect the banking system.
"We've had five years of scapegoating and pointing fingers, but we don't have a better system yet," Dimon said.
In an August New York Magazine interview, Dimon equated banking regulation with the Soviet Union: "This is not the Soviet Union. This is the United States of America. That's what I remember. Guess what.... It's a free. F*cking. Country."
Leading People Not Pandit’s "Bag," Says Cool Cat Richard Parsons
Richard Parsons, former CEO of Citigroup (C), said Vikram Pandit, who was ousted as Citigroup CEO last October, was not prepared to lead the company, telling Bloomberg that Pandit’s departure was "appropriate."
"You need seasoned, honed managers who can cause a 250,000, 300,000-personnel organization to march" with direction, Parsons said in a weekend interview at his Tuscan vineyard in Montalcino, Italy. "Vikram will tell you, 'That's not my bag.'"
Though Parsons has defended Pandit in the past, the comment was biting in the context of Pandit’s departure. Had Pandit left of his own volition, the remark would have simply acknowledged Pandit as a transitional "fixer" in a time of crisis.
Martha Stewart Throws EVOO on Rachael Ray
Martha Stewart, founder of Martha Stewart Living (MSO), put down Rachael Ray, the talk show host best known for her 15-minute-meals and easy ingredients, in a 2009 Nightline segment.
Martha Stewart, who has appeared on Rachael Ray's show many times, implied Ray was too cutesy to be taken seriously, adding that her recipes were "not good enough for me."
"She's more of an entertainer than she is, with her bubbly personality... a teacher, like me. That's not what she's professing to be," Stewart said.
Tesla CEO Introduces Cramer to Ghost of Christmas Past: Bear Stearns
In a 2010 MSNBC interview, Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk was asked to respond to some of Tesla's critics. Musk took down one of Tesla's chief critics, Mad Money host Jim Cramer, by referencing Cramer's infamous endorsement of the now extinct Bear Stearns.
"I would say, 'Yeah, sure, Jim, we are no Bear Sterns, but I think we are going to do ok,'" Musk said.
Tupperware CEO Says Americans Have Bad Taste in Taxis, Plastic Containers
During a fourth-quarter earnings call, Tupperware (TUP) CEO Rick Goings said it is difficult for the American consumer to buy Tupperware because Americans love cheap low-quality products. "America is a 'Wal-Mart market,'" said Goings. "People don't care about quality – only price. That's why cabs in New York are filthy and junk compared to the Mercedes and Audi cabs that you find across the pond in Germany."
I Knew Andrew Carnegie, and Senator, I Am No Andrew Carnegie
In regards to the accusation that Microsoft (MSFT) is a monopoly and thus not a fair competitor, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer boasted, "We don't have a monopoly. We have market share. There's a difference."
What Microsoft Users and Spider Monkeys Have in Common
For all of his philanthropic efforts, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates does not mince words, especially when talking about his customers, whom he once compared to primates: "Let's face it, the average computer user has the brain of a spider monkey."
Greed Is Good
In a 2009 interview with the British newspaper The Times, Goldman Sachs (GS) CEO Lloyd Blankfein said he was "doing God's work." When asked whether or not banks should cut compensation, Blankfein responded with this Gordon Gekko-inspired barb: "Is it possible to have too much ambition? Is it possible to be too successful? I don’t want people in this firm to think that they have accomplished as much for themselves as they can and go on vacation. As the guardian of the interests of the shareholders and, by the way, for the purposes of society, I’d like them to continue to do what they are doing. I don’t want to put a cap on their ambition."
Valley Girl Mickey Drexler Says Gap and Ann Taylor Are So Yesterday
"Ann Taylor -- great name, great real estate, sh*tty business. Gap -- great name, great real estate, declining business. J.Crew -- Hellooo? Great name, better fashion image than the Gap."
Not exactly Shakespeare, but cutting nonetheless.