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There's a very interesting thing about Lee Iacocca that most people don't know, or don't remember. If you don't know who Lee Iacocca is (and shame on you for your lack of business knowledge if you don't!), he's one of the most famous CEOs in history, and the business visionary who turned Chrysler around from near bankruptcy back in the late 80s. Unlike today's turnarounds, where management lays off thousands of front-line workers, Iacocca started at the top, where the problems usually are, and personally fired 33 of the company's top 35 vice presidents. He did a lot of other things, and you can read about the details here, but the point is he took a company that was almost out of business to one of the top car companies in the world in just a few years. It really was pretty amazing and he is definitely someone you can learn from. I certainly have. However, there's a second part of the story that most people aren't aware of. Once Chrysler was back on top, and Iacocca was no longer in the heat of solving the huge problem that was Chrysler, he started to lose focus. He started to flounder around. When he was focused, he was responsible for one of the greatest turnarounds in business history. But when things were finally going great, he started doing some very weird things. While he was still CEO, instead of focusing on his business, he did things like:
- Headed the renovation of the Statue of Liberty
- Joined a congressional commission on budget reduction
- Wrote two books
- Began a syndicated newspaper column
- Bought an Italian villa and started bottling his own wine
- Bought a Gulfstream jet company
- Went into business with an Italian automaker
This article was originally published on November 29, 2013