Did you know that when the stock market goes down, media bosses get poorer like magic? It's true — and the fact that it's a totally obvious point doesn't make it any less fun!
The problem with lists of billionaires' paper losses, like the one Henry Blodget's Business Sheet has assembled, is that they're frustratingly free of context. Did a particular CEO do anything to make his company's shares worthless, or was he just buffeted willy-nilly by the crashing stock market? Is Rupert Murdoch $3.5 billion poorer because he's a bad manager, or just unlucky? Instead, we're left knowing that they own many millions of shares in their companies and those shares are, ohmigod, totally worth less now than they were last January! That's about as much fun as reading companies' annual proxy statements.
What this list needs is a dose of schadenfreude. Here's an edited version, including only those people we really are happer to see poorer:
- Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, -$3.3 million: Totally deserved, for installing Randy Falco, a useless broadcast-network flunky, as CEO of AOL, thereby destroying whatever remaining value the Internet portal had.
- Roger Ailes, head of Fox's local TV stations and Fox News Channel, -$3.5 million: This News Corp. executive deserves a net worth chop — not for the maddeningly popular Fox News, but for the laughably unwatched CNBC wannabe he championed, Fox Business Network.
- James Dolan, Cablevision scion, -$13.1 million: Bought Newsday, and then gave an interview to a company-owned cable network rather than to the newspaper, which, frankly, could use some help filling column-inches.
- Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., New York Times publisher, -$76.7 million: Almost let the Times run out of cash so his cousins could keep getting paid millions of dollars in dividends by the family-owned paper. Also, rumored to be in annoying relationship with Caroline Kennedy.
- Sam Zell, CEO, Tribune Co., -$315 million (maybe): Zell might lose his investment in the bankrupt Tribune — but he's not out nearly as much as his employees, whose stock-ownership plan was used to buy the newspaper-and-TV conglomerate.
Here's the whole list. Bravo if you can make it to the end — at which point you will learn that you never really cared about EchoStar CEO Charlie Ergen, the richest media mogul you've never heard of and for good reason. Also, you'll wonder why media CEOs aren't more photogenic.