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The 10 most controversial resignations of the last 12 months

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Now we know that even the pope quits his job.

Resignations are nothing rare, but after a certain level on the career ladder of the world’s “busy and important”, they’re rarely voluntary. Even Benedict XVI didn’t exactly step down to spend more time with his family; it was age and poor health that forced him off the throne.

The Catholic church, one of the world’s biggest institutions, has survived more scandal than the banking industry. But its leaders aren’t used to resigning for controversy. Barclays’, however, do. News Corporation’s do. So do the BBC’s, remember?

The pope’s decision to step down is only the cherry on top of a deliciously scandalous sundae of resignations we have witnessed in the last 12 months. Do you remember all of them?

1. Mortimer Caplin, Danaher Board, director

Benedict XVI steps down for health and age reasons? Hell, he’s only 85-years-old! When Mortimer Caplin was that age, he was running a Standard & Poor 500 Index company. Now, at age 96, even Caplin has decided to slow down a bit. The former commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service plans to step down from the board of Danaher Corp in May.

Only the Johannes Heesters of this world can compete with a career of that length. Caplin himself doesn’t make a big deal out of it. “It’s a question of competence,” he once told Bloomberg in an interview. “In a way, I feel age is irrelevant.”

A founder of Caplin & Drysdale, a Washington law firm, Caplin graduated from the University of Virginia in 1937 with a bachelor’s degree. The IRS commissioner from 1961 to 1964, he joined the Danaher board in 1990 and was identified in a 2011 Bloomberg article on corporate directors as the oldest in the U.S.

2. Ashley van Haeften, Wikimedia UK, chairman

The leaders of Wikipedia – which is promoted as an “educational website” suitable for schoolchildren – were not impressed when Ashley van Haeften was found to have included links to highly explicit pornography in a biography on the site.

Consequently, van Haeften was forced to resign as chairman of Wikimedia UK in the summer of 2012. Before this, he had already been banned indefinitely from contributing to the English version of Wikipedia by ArbCom, an elected committee of senior editors.

Mr van Haeften was also found by ArbCom to have violated a series of editing rules, including by using multiple accounts to change pages after he had asked for a “clean start”. …As you can probably tell, there wasn’t much choice in this decision to resign.

Update: Wikimedia contacted us with the following information regarding Ashley van Haeften: “It was presented in the media that Mr Van Haeften’s ban from the English language Wikipedia was related to pornography. This isn’t really true. He’d been subjected to a long campaign of harassment, both online and offline, and the ban resulted from his interactions with other editors while trying to deal with this, which some editors felt was inappropriate.”

3. Bob Diamond, Barclays

2012 wasn’t a great year for Barclays. Fined a record £290m for attempting to manipulate the interbank lending rate, Libor, between 2005 and 2009, the bank soon lost their chief executive Bob Diamond. A summer of scandal after scandal.

The 60-year-old Mr Diamond, who gained global recognition for Barclays’s bold purchase of Lehman Brothers Holdings’ assets at the height of the financial crisis, had grappled with a tumultuous 18 months after becoming head of the bank. During his tenure at Barclays Capital, the investment bank, and later, as CEO, Mr. Diamond attempted to reshape Barclays into an investment banking powerhouse.

Well, that didn’t work out so well. Mr Diamond felt he had been “hounded out” by politicians who would have tied him up in inquiries and giving him no time to fix the bank. The “unambiguous message” that the chief executive should go from Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, and Lord Turner, the chairman of the Financial Services Authority, didn’t sound very welcoming either.

4. George Entwistle, BBC, editor-in-chief

The rumours are it was John Humphrys who triggered George Entwistle’s great fall. After the scandals around Newsnight’s failed investigation into Jimmy Savile last November, and The Guardian’s accusation of Lord McAlpine as a paedophile, Mr Entwistle presented a prime example of how not to deal with a corporate scandal, in a disastrous interview on Radio 4’s Today programme.

An astonished John Humphrys listened to the BBC’s editor-in-chief showing an embarrassing lack of knowledge of the latest Newsnight crisis, as Entwistle insisted he had no idea that Newsnight was planning to run its paedophile exposé.

It was an astounding, sudden resignation, triggered by one of the worst sex abuse scandals Britain has ever experienced.

5. Emma Harrison, A4E, personal adviser in problem families

Struggling to combat claims of fraud, head of A4e welfare-to-work group, Emma Harrison, stepped down from her role as David Cameron’s personal adviser on problem families last month.

Harrison’s decision was allegedly made to keep the media furore over her multimillion pound reward package and allegations of fraud from affecting the company. She is the majority shareholder in A4e, along with four other shareholders, who were paid £11m in dividends last year.

Her “reign” was a controversial one. Some regarded Harrison as the poster child for privatisation, a symbol for all the wrongs in public services, while others admired her abilities as philanthropist and no-nonsense entrepreneur.

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