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July 06, 2021

The dumbest business moves of 2009

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

It’s said that about 50% of businesses fail within five years of inception. Relax, we said businesses, not Adam Sandler movies. Fifty percent would be a tad generous there.

In any case, as we continue to claw back from the near-depression, what better way to feel better about our own finances than to revel in the misery of others?

So under that thinking – and really, who cares that it’s only July? – Fortune has jumped at the chance to unveil this year’s dumbest moments in business.

It’s pretty astonishing there have already been 17 flubs in 2009 Fortune feels confident casting the Dumb Tag on, a mark they bestow upon the likes of Bernie Madoff, General Motors and AIG.

Many of the list’s entries you could see coming (Really, it’s a bad idea to offer $165 million in executive bonuses when you’ve just been bailed out by taxpayer money? You think so, doctor?), but there are some not-so-obvious choices you can’t help but nod along to.

Like the New York Yankees, for example, who overplayed their hand worse than Terry Benedict in Ocean’s Thirteen  by thinking they could fill primo, $2,500-a-ticket seats behind home plate for 162 games this summer in a crappy economy.

Or like British Airways, who did the near-unthinkable last month by asking its 40,000 employees to work for free while the airline tries to ride things out.

The list also makes you wonder what we could possibly see as an encore in the back-half of 2009. Maybe Apple brings back the ‘Shake the Baby’ app for the iPhone. Maybe KFC will run a free chicken promo and run out of food again. Or maybe Toronto’s city workers will strike in the dead of summer, leave no end in sight and inadvertently cause a three streetcar pile-up when one of the fourteen thousand Manchu Wok cups lying around gets lodged in the tracks. Okay, one of those might actually happen.

And if the Fortune list only whets your appetite for momentous business malfunction, be sure to check out’s 25 Worst Business Failures in History.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to hop in my DeLorean to go rent a Betamax, pick up a pack of smokeless cigarettes and drop off my resume at Enron. Have a great day, everyone.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...