The List

Grumpy Old Tycoons

Rupert Murdoch isn't the only titan of industry who may have stayed on the job a bit too long.

A British parliamentary inquiry into the News Corp. hacking scandal has declared 81-year-old CEO Rupert Murdoch "not a fit person" to run his multibillion-dollar media empire. Murdoch appeared to many to be doddering on confused in an appearance before the panel, though many believed he was playing up his infirmity to elicit sympathy. After all, many CEOs, including Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett and Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, run business empires well into their 80s with no noticeable effects. Occasionally, though, they can get a little odd. Here are five corporate titans who may be getting a little long in the tooth.


Company: STDM

Age: 90

Stanley Ho built the island of Macau into the gambling mecca it is today. Until 2002, he enjoyed a near monopoly over Macau's gaming industry and even today rakes in about half the profits from the semiautonomous region's casinos.

In recent years, however, it has been Ho's complicated family squabbles that have dominated Chinese headlines. Ho has sired 17 children -- whom he acknowledges, anyway -- with four different women, all of whom he refers to as his "wives," though it's not clear to which of them he is legally married, if any. In 2011, Ho accused his second and third wives and several of his children of forcing him to give up shares in his company. In a lawsuit, he said the relatives had bullied him into signing away control of the company in a transaction that was "something like robbery." Ho eventually confirmed the transfer, but the family of his first wife has alleged foul play.

Despite a 2009 head injury that forced him to be hospitalized for seven months, as well as his seemingly erratic behavior, his lawyers insist he is still in full possession of his faculties.



Company: Dole

Age: 89

David Murdock acquired Dole as part of a deal for a larger company in 1985 and has built it into the world's largest fruit and vegetable producer. Perhaps appropriately for a juice magnate, Murdock has taken health consciousness to a new level. He aims to live until 125 by strictly maintaining a low-calorie fruit- and vegetable-heavy diet and by exercising constantly. He has put $500 million of his fortune into a research center on health and longevity.

Murdock doesn't exactly take a live-and-let-live attitude toward others' health, either. He browbeats employees for unhealthy habits, criticizes waiters for putting butter on his table, and once told a contractor he had hired for a construction job, "You're probably going to die before this job's done because you're so fat and unhealthy." Wanna try to outlive Murdock? You can start with his vegetable soup recipe.

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Company: IKEA

Age: 86

Technically, Ingvar Kamprad stepped down from running the furniture empire he founded in 1999 to comply with retirement laws in the Netherlands, where IKEA has its corporate headquarters. But he's reportedly still quite active in running the company, even suggesting designs for new furniture. Kamprad, who is worth at least $3 billion, but probably more given IKEA's byzantine, tax-averse ownership arrangement, is best known for his notoriously frugal lifestyle, which includes driving a 15-year-old Volvo, living in a modest bungalow stocked with only IKEA furniture, and flying discount carrier easyJet. He has boasted of firing his barber to find one who would give him a haircut for less than $10. He is rumored to restock hotel minibars with store-bought cans of Coca-Cola when his self-discipline fails him.

Kamprad has acknowledged a youthful sympathy for the Nazi party, but a new book alleges that he maintained ties with Swedish fascist groups well after World War II.

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Company: Viacom

Age: 88

The Viacom boss has not settled comfortably into old age. Sumner Redstone has had high-profile feuds with everyone from Tom Cruise, whom he fired in 2006 because of his erratic behavior; to his son, who has sued him to increase his share of the company; to his daughter, who was once thought to be his most likely successor. It's now not quite clear who's in a position to take over the $23 billion conglomerate, which includes CBS, the MTV Networks, and Paramount.

Redstone has cut back his public appearances as he has become somewhat less mobile, though he did appear at a recent shareholders' meeting and reportedly still makes time to swim in the nude every day. He attributes his longevity to açai berry juice.

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Company: Aldi

Age: 92

Karl Albrecht and his brother, Theo, started working in their mother's grocery store shortly after World War II and went on to build the no-frills, Germany-based Aldi supermarket chain into one of the world's largest. In the 1960s, they agreed to split up the company due to a feud over whether to sell cigarettes at the cash register. After Theo was kidnapped for 17 days in 1971, the two withdrew from public life almost completely, moving to a remote island in the North Sea. Theo, who also owned the U.S. chain Trader Joe's, died in 2010. Because of the family's secrecy, news of his death wasn't made public for four days. The two rarely appeared in public, and the last known photograph of them is from 1987.

Little is known about Albrecht, who is Germany's richest man, with an estimated net worth of more than $25 billion. He is reportedly a huge golf fanatic and has built a full-size course for his personal use. His hobbies include tending orchids and collecting antique typewriters.

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The List

Après Moi, le Déluge

Five reasons that Europe will rue the loss of Nicolas Sarkozy.

"I'm not saying, 'After me, chaos,'" French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the newspaper Le Figaro with a wink in an interview published Friday, April 20, on the eve of the first-round election that saw him lose to Socialist Party leader François Hollande. But if Sarkozy was trying to make the indelicate point that, without him, the country is doomed if his looming electoral defeat in the May 6 runoff comes to pass, it's not just France facing an uncertain future. It's all of Europe. Critics like to paint the incumbent as "L'Omniprésident" and a "barbaric child," but the repercussions from his all-but-certain electoral rebuke might be vastly larger than "Tsarkozy's" critics take his ego to be.

1. The revenge of nationalism. Enthusiasts of the European project have more to fear than a historically strong showing by Marine Le Pen and her National Front party. Hollande's own brand of nationalism is equally suspicious of European austerity and Anglo-American cooperation. (He made waves announcing he won't go along with Britain and the United States in coordinating a release of strategic oil reserves.) Hollande's rise signals that leftist nationalism is no less ascendant than its equivalent on the right. Yet observers on both sides of the Atlantic have focused their fears on nationalist reactionaries, such as those dominating Hungarian politics, and have underappreciated two key developments.

First, thanks to the intimate center-right partnership between Germany's Angela Merkel and Sarkozy, the European left is quickly beginning to realize it does not hold a conceptual monopoly on transnationalism. The grand political project of putting nationalism in harmony with both globalization and ever-deeper European integration may express fundamentally liberal dreams. But its greatest proponents appeared on the right of center. Radicals' opposition to that project ensured that the respectable European left was unable to become its champion, while a man like Sarkozy faced no similar obstacles. Not until this election cycle has serious opposition to the harmonizing project emerged on the right. Sarkozy has tried to respond by pandering on immigration, but he is grasping. The respectable right is now the center of gravity for Europe's transnational hopes -- and the respectable left must consider what alternative to offer. For Hollande, who will likely now actually have to govern, the answer is simple: rediscover the nation as the focus of justice, and the state as its source.

Second, a deep disagreement over nationalism is brewing on the right, with the potential for far greater conflict than will be seen on the left. Norway's mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik might be crazy, but his transnational mission statement -- that European civilization is under mortal threat -- has broad conservative appeal. The burning question, if the right is right, is whether Europe as they have known and loved it can be saved on a nation-by-nation basis or whether a more unifying, transcendent approach is required. Some, such as Le Pen, answer resoundingly that only France, for instance, can save the French. Increasingly, other conservatives and reactionaries will demand that only a concerted, pan-European effort can measure up to the vast scale of the continent's religious and demographic change. A Sarkozy loss will strike a powerful blow against the idea that the conventional, center-right compromise on the nationalism question has any integrity. The European Union institutionalizes only one vision of transnationalism. In the long run, huge political possibilities could be opened up by a groundswell of right-wing interest in transcending the nation-state. In the immediate term, however, Sarkozy's departure will cause more people to fear transnational thinking as a vehicle for right-wing agendas.

2. The eclipse of economics. Despite Sarkozy's reputation as an egomaniac, the world has long recognized that he has been Merkel's junior, not senior, partner. Merkel flexed her financial muscle over the whole of the continent, while poor Sarkozy was required to skip across the Mediterranean, to Libya, to make a difference. Sarkozy's leadership on Libya earned him nary a blip in the polls -- not just because war is controversial or even because it is expensive, but because the dominant view has been that politics itself is the subservient accessory in Europe to all things economic. The monstrous totality of Europe's economic crisis has created the captivating story that if it isn't finance, it doesn't really matter. Stubbornly, however, democracies continue to require periodic elections.

The ouster of Sarkozy is an event large enough to reveal that politics still matters. Sarkozy could in that way become the antithesis of Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti -- removed by voting citizens instead of installed from over their heads. Monti himself is caving in to the realities of popular politics. Paradoxically, in terms of public opinion, the most powerful position for a politician to be in these days may be out of office. Much of Europe is unknowingly waiting for an out-of-office nationalist to reassert the primacy of politics on every level over the monetary rule of appointed bureaucrats.

More than the bad memories ushered in by German economic domination, the real danger to increased fiscal unity in Europe is the longing to live into a future where political ideas and political decisions once again are possible. Being political again means being free from the tyranny of economic considerations. And we all know where that could lead.

3. The rise of boring. Sorry, but nothing about Merkel -- or Britain's David Cameron, or virtually every other European leader -- is thrilling. Virtually everything about Sarkozy, however, has been sensationalistic. To pull Sarkozy offstage is to make European leadership the most boring it has been since the 1970s. Sometimes, as American conservatives attest, boring is good (behold, ladies and gentlemen, the power of Calvin Coolidge). But for Europe, boring comes at a time when the longing for meaningful politics is accompanied by a leadership class that lacks the most primal prerequisite of political authority: the language of command.

Often, we now reflexively think of demagogic despotism when we think of commanding language. That can happen. But in reality, language is commanding whenever it calls something into being by putting the personal honor of the speaker fully at stake. If people like Hitler were the only consequence of that, human beings would have been doomed long ago. Affirmatively commanding language is a tall order, but the degree of challenge involved is not an adequate explanation for its absence from politics in Europe. Where are today's de Gaulles and Churchills? The problem is the particular kinds of people who have grown into Europe's leadership class. They're not wired for it, or they don't believe they are. And they surely haven't been trained for it.

Sarkozy is far from perfect, but he has come closer to making authoritatively commanding declarations than any current European leader (save Pope Benedict XVI). And the pope, of course, isn't a political figure. It's not at all clear that Sarkozy has a second act in him, and he has no clear successor. The likely result is a boring place holder, one of a growing number in Europe.

4. Kicks for America while it's down. The United States needs France. Yes, that sounds like a joke, but France is the only country capable of leading Europe politically. However close a relationship with Germany that the United States requires, once beyond the realm of economic survival, the point of diminishing returns is quickly reached. Simply put, the United States cannot do anything of political consequence solely through a partnership with Germany. But with a real, live European-style socialist in Paris, U.S. President Barack Obama will face a Hobson's choice: work closely with Hollande and incur the wrath of Republicans, or distance himself from Hollande and squander yet another opportunity to ensure that Europe's future is as fully as possible in the hands of its greatest power.

In a grim irony, Hollande's intransigence on the oil reserve issue has the potential to make Obama appear impotent even in his relations with a European socialist. How could Obama tell the American people that he can't get them relief at the pump because a newly elected, cheese-eating surrender monkey won't let him coordinate his energy policy with the international community? Absurd situations like these are the electorally fatal stuff of legend -- and perfect ammunition for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose critical narrative of Obama is already, despite grains of important truths, so spectacularly absurd.

The bigger picture, however, is that American life is made substantially more difficult by Hollande's inevitable and foreshadowed refusal to lead Europe and make Europe a leading force in the world. The political inspiration that only France can provide Europe will have to be played once again by a United States that is historically tired of playing that role. A U.S. Treasury spokesperson has already declared that the United States has no intention of supplying more money to the IMF to substitute for an adequate eurozone firewall. America's traditional desire not to squander its energies on managing European problems is poised to return with full force, and not just within a single major political party. A weak France led by a colorless holdover from a defunct past is not just bad news for France, no matter how frustrated voters have become with Sarkozy. It's awful news for the United States and for any U.S. president obliged to figure out how to help Europe out of its current morass by doing anything other than writing checks.

5. The triumph of inwardness. During his time in office, Sarkozy almost single-handedly kept Europe in the game of international politics, from Africa to the Middle East to Iran. If he is gone, European interventionism will go with him. It is only a matter of how long it will take. Sarkozy has reintegrated France into a NATO actively diminishing its obligations. Hollande, with roughly zero diplomatic experience, vows he'll pull France from Afghanistan this year. He will bring to France an inwardness that is dominating the rest of Europe -- for the first time ever.

Actually, that's not entirely true. After gallivanting around Egypt, Napoleon Bonaparte chose to create a brief but striking moment of European inwardness -- selling off Louisiana to the Americans and expending military effort outside Europe only upon rebellious Haiti. Napoleon's interest in an inward turn for Europe (yes, including Russia) was only a means to an end. What Napoleon wanted to accomplish was the political unification of Europe. Today's inward-turning Europeans seem to want no such thing. They have no taste for grandeur and no sense of what empire could mean in the absence of colonial exploitation. As a consequence, their version of a politically inward-looking Europe will be a weak Europe, whereas a politically inward-looking United States has not been so and is still not fated to be.

Sarkozy has been irresistible in his way, if not always an irresistible force. Whatever his electoral fortune may be, his appreciation for projecting French power outward was too committed to a misbegotten vision of France as a world power. What matters most as a counterforce against a weak, self-defeating European inwardness is that France be a European power -- committed to projecting its ideals and its energy outward across the continent, not across the globe. Sarkozy's failure here will likely persist to defeat the efforts of his center-right successors, if they choose to labor at a French interventionism that neglects the possibility of shaping Europe first and foremost.

Europeans and Americans should worry about this sort of defeat, too -- even if currently the majority of the French don't seem to. By the time a French leader comes to the fore capable of learning from these mistakes, the follies of Hollande and his more extreme opponents may have ensured an irreversible European tragedy.

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