Founders that were removed as CEOs – but were later reinstated

One of the main draws of entrepreneurship is that you get to be your own boss. But in reality, especially if your company is successful, you rarely work for yourself. Your boss becomes your board members, shareholders and investors – and that means you may at one point be fired from the company you created.

However, various circumstances sometimes lead to the founder CEO being rehired once more. We took a look at five examples.

(1) Steve Jobs – Apple

Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple rose to prominence in the late 1970s, producing the first widely popular PC. However, many suggested that Jobs was ill-suited to run a large business and he ended up being ousted from Apple in a 1985 power struggle with John Sculley – a former Pepsico marketer Jobs hired to manage Apple. 

Of course, Sculley himself was forced out of Apple in 1993 over a dispute about licensing Macintosh’s software to other PC makers. The board was in favour of letting computer makers use Apple’s software, but Sculley was opposed. After Sculley was fired, Apple licensed its software – which turned out to be a mistake. The company was posting losses while, in the meantime, Jobs had gone on to create computer company NeXT. 

Apple finally rehired Jobs in 1997 when it realised NeXT’s operating system had all the features it needed to compete once more – the two companies struck a deal to integrate and Jobs ended up taking the helm once more.

How to live a Steve Jobs Life – on your own terms

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(2) Sean Rad – Tinder

In 2014 Rad found himself being let go due to a very public sexual harassment claim from co-founder and former VP of marketing Whitney Wolfe. She filed a lawsuit against Tinder, alleging that former lover CMO Justin Mateen had removed her title as co-founder because of her gender – and that he had publicly called her a slut and a whore.

Rad, who was said to have ignored Wolfe’s complaints, was also named in the suit for telling Wolfe that she would accept the decision or be fired. Chris Payne, a former executive at eBay and Microsoft, stepped in to take over Tinder, but after only five months of losing his old position, Rad returned as CEO of Tinder. 

According to Matt Cohler, a board member at Tinder: “It was only for a few months but it quickly became clear that Payne wasn’t going to become a long-term fit. Everyone came to this realisation and all agreed it wouldn’t work out. Given that, we thought we might as well take action on this sooner than later and reinstate Rad.” 

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(3) Mark Pincus – Zynga

Less than two years after taking over the job as CEO of Zynga, Don Mattrick’s tenure came to an abrupt end when he was replaced by the familiar face of the company’s co-founder, and former CEO, Mark Pincus. It was suggested that Pincus’ reign was controversial, which is why he quickly found himself no longer carrying the title of CEO.

For example, when the company began preparing for its IPO in 2010 he decided that too many shares had been given out. He demanded that those employees give back their share, or they would be fired

While Pincus was removed as CEO though, he kept his chairman title. But when Mattrick didn’t successfully increase the profitability of the firm, the company looked to its previous CEO once more for a solution. In a statement at the time, Pincus said: “Now that we are a mobile first company, it’s time to renew our focus on our founding mission to connect the world through games and our vision to make play and social games a mass market activity. I am returning to the company  to accelerate innovation and strengthen our focus on our core areas.”

Read on to find out more about the founders of Twitter and Etsy.

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