As it turns out, "burn in hell you heartless beast" was not actually the worst thing said about late Journal-Register Co. CEO Robert Jelenic by bitter former employees.
There were plenty of similarly nasty, bile-filled remembrances of the executive, following his death earlier this month from cancer, on the Yahoo Finance message board for JRC. "Ding-dong, the witch is dead," read one. " Another: "The guy was an @#$% on Tuesday, when he was still alive. He was an @#$% on Wednesday, when he died. And he is still an @#$% right now."
But the memorials that besmirched Jelenic's memory the most were the ones about how he was an awful person.
Jelenic's notoriety was fairly well established before he died. His company owned a chain of community newspapers — generally not well regarded — in the Northeast. The stock now trades at half a cent as the company struggles with heavy debt due to acquisitions.
Forbes profiled him under the headline, "Cheapskate Journalism," adding that "nobody cinches the belt tighter" and recalling how one large corporation refused to sell a group of newspapers to Jelenic, even though his was the highest bid by a significant margin.
Jelenic also lashed out at an American Journalism Review writer, pelting her with insults. "Flashes of his ego and temper are almost immediately on display," she wrote. "The interview lasts nearly two hours, and Jelenic appears to hate every question."
A call on the board for a modicum of respect, for the benefit of Jelenic's family, was rejected. Disgruntled former employees said the former CEO's loved ones should be faring far better than the families of those he laid off, fired, or put in peril through terrible business decisions. Fortunately, talk of bitter employees at the funeral, unloading their hatred on mourners, apparently did not come to pass.
Firing a ton of people to achieve 35 percent margins is probably not, even among salty newspaper types, and even on anonymous message boards, enough to stir this sort of public grave-dancing. But doing so while being a tremendous jerk about it apparently is. Moguls be warned.