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"At the company's annual sales conference a few years ago, he ordered attendees to take a detailed quiz about Broadcom chip designs," reported The Wall Street Journal.
"The worst performers were summoned onstage, Mr. Nicholas says, so he could identify them by name and penalize them by having them drink shots of hard liquor," the Journal article continues. "'I called it the sales week from hell,' he recalls with a chuckle.'"
When Nicholas stepped down as CEO in 2003, he said it was to spend more time with his family. For once, the answer seemed believable. (He is now engaged in a divorce.)
Kildall, founder of Digital Research (once called Intergalactic Digital Research), had the best operating system in computerdom in the early 1980s. IBM wanted to license it for the first IBM PC. Kildall missed the first part of a crucial meeting and dithered about a nondisclosure agreement. By contrast, the Microsoft guys showed up in suits and gladly signed. IBM even granted them an option to license DOS, an operating system they actually didn't own yet, to other PC makers.
Sometimes, that free-wheeling Silicon Valley culture bit just doesn't pay off.
If there's one thing competitors, allies and others who have dealt with the CEO of graphics chip maker Nvidia agree on, it's that Jen-Hsun certainly has a way with swear words. And every time it's a novel concatenation of body parts.
"Microsoft is going to ($# you. Do you want to *&^&*# Microsoft's @$%#," is how George Haber, founder of Gigapixel (and the most successful DJ in Ceausescu-era Romania), describes one of his conversations with Huang. Gigapixel was going up against Nvidia for the graphics contract on the first Xbox. Nvidia won. Haber also added that the two are friends.
Start the carping now. Yes, Jobs has rescued Apple from oblivion and made it a standard bearer in design and consumer electronics. But try being a personal assistant for him. You'll end up begging restaurants to craft vegan to-go meals for his highness, according to one former assistant. Who said only meat eaters are aggressive.
If you were a reporter in the early to mid-1990s, the Cabletron Systems founder was tough to forget. He admittedly built a corporate culture based around confrontation and aggressiveness. People who showed up late to meetings got locked out of the room. Then there were those basketball stories.
"A top executive at his company donned combat fatigues and thrust knives into basketballs to demonstrate the damage he intended to wreak on competitors," wrote Alexandra Starr in the Atlantic.
The sporting goods stabbings, however, failed to scare off Cisco Systems. Eventually, Cabletron got broken up into parts. In 2002, Benson got elected as governor of New Hampshire, where he insisted on conducting meetings while standing up. He didn't win re-election.
A famous venture capitalist
I haven't confirmed this, but apparently he spends several thousand a month to get someone to take care of his house plants. "He doesn't hear 'no' much," said one person. But he's been behind some of tech's biggest successors.
An unnamed investment banker
"We're on the verge of something big," he told me in a 1996 interview. "We're calling it 'The Webvolution.'"
"Really," I replied.
The bank broke up and the term never took hold, but they orchestrated some of the biggest deals in the Internet era.
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas. He has worked as an attorney, travel writer and sidewalk hawker for a time share resort, among other occupations.
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