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6 CEOs Who Are Over-the-Top Dedicated to Their Brands


From the bold and obnoxious to the stubborn or downright weird, these CEOs are willing to go the extra mile in support of their companies.

The life of a CEO is fast-paced and demanding. Results mean everything, and when things are going less than smoothly, it's easy to turn to the top in search of answers.

Ron Johnson's run as CEO of JC Penney, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) ended in April, just 17 months in to his two- to three-year plan to rebuild and rebrand the company. In May, The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG) CEO Bob McDonald stepped down after a four-year stint that saw competitors start to gain ground on the consumer products giant.

It's a given that a CEO must be deeply invested in the company that he or she leads, but here are five CEOs who have taken the extra step -- or misstep -- in an effort to support their brand.

Elon Musk Offers Personal Guarantee for Tesla Cars

In April, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA), did more than just guarantee the buyback value of his company's Model S sedan.

"Even if Tesla is unable to honor it, I will personally do so. That's what I mean by putting my money where my mouth is," said Musk in a conference call with reporters.

Forbes listed Musk's net worth at $2.7 billion as of March, but putting this kind of guarantee behind a car that retails for over $60,000 shows a lot of moxie on the CEO's part.

If Musk has a safety net here, should his bold move come back to bite him, it's that the guarantee aligns the Model S's depreciation rate with that of the Mercedes S550 (OTCMKTS:DDAIF) over the first three years of ownership.

With the 2013 S-Class Benz losing over $40,000 dollars in value from its $110,016 price tag in that time according to Yahoo Autos, Musk's debts if his Tesla experiment fails will be substantially reduced from when the cars first pulled off the lot.

Don Thompson Eats McDonald's at Least Once Per Day

As the CEO of McDonald's Corporation (NYSE:MCD) for just under a year, Don Thompson has eaten a meal from one of his restaurants every single day, a sign that Morgan Spurlock's warning in Super Size Me may not have reached him.

The new CEO has made it his mission to combat the image of McDonald's as a catalyst for obesity. On June 3, Thompson announced that he lost 20 pounds over the past year, despite his daily diet, citing merely getting active as the key to his healthy turnaround.

While it's great that Thompson got active for himself and his company, it's going to be pretty hard to pull the wool over the eyes of the public as research continues to reveal that even "healthy" fast food options like Subway are poor dietary choices.

Actions may speak louder than words, but when pressed by nine-year-old Hannah Robertson about the issue of McDonald's tricking kids into becoming addicted to their food, Thompson's dodgy response sent a pretty telling message about the difficulty of defending fast food.

"First off, we don't sell junk food, Hannah," said the CEO in response, "My kids also eat McDonald's. When they were about your size, to my son who is with us today, who was a little bit bigger, he was a football player, and also they cook with me at home. I love to cook. We cook a lot of fruits and veggies at home."

Todd Davis Risk His Own Social Security Number for LifeLock and Pays the Price

Mr. Davis certainly has faith in his Arizona-based identity theft protection company LifeLock (NYSE:LOCK). He was so confident in his product that in a 2006 nationwide ad campaign, he posted his Social Security number on his website's homepage, on billboards, and in television commercials, inviting people to try and steal his identity and guaranteeing they would fail.

While it was refreshing to see a CEO back his product so assuredly, Davis's money found its way into the hands of identity thieves who viewed his ads as a challenge. Utilizing the publicly available SSN, Davis's identity was effectively stolen for the first time on June 2007. It was then stolen an additional 12 times through 2008, as reported by the Pheonix New Times in May 2010.

Davis, who failed to report the identity thefts to customers, attempted to put a positive twist on the story, claiming that the 13 successes -- which resulted in thefts ranging from $122 to $2,309 spent on fraudulent cellphone contracts, bank accounts, and even gift basket purchases -- were a small minority among hundreds of failures.

Unfortunately, 13 -- let alone one -- instances of identity theft didn't exactly meet the advertised 100% satisfaction guarantee that Davis promised. Accordingly, LifeLock was fined $12 million in March 2010 by the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising.

Despite his struggles, Davis did eventually take LifeLock public in August 2012 and the company remains a market leader in identity theft protection, facing Intersections Inc. (NASDAQ:INTX) as its main competitor.

Richard Branson Turns Inaugural Flights and Product Releases Into Spectacles

Richard Branson, the ever-exotic, headline-grabbing entrepreneurial Brit, has never been one to shy away from the limelight. As CEO of the London-based Virgin Group, the conglomerate behind Virgin Media Inc. (NASDAQ:VMED), Virgin Airlines, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Music and more, Branson's net worth was determined by Forbes to be $4.6 billion as of March of this year.

A thrill-seeker, Branson has never hesitated to take a new Virgin release and turn it into a stunt. He rappelled down the Spaceport America hangar in New Mexico, the home of Virgin Galactic, in 2011. In 2007 he escaped a flaming cage suspended 80 feet above Toronto's Dundas Square (the Canadian city's answer to Times Square) to promote Virgin's new service that let Toronto cell phone users escape their old providers while maintaining the same contact number.

The knighted CEO also has quite the flair for playing dress-up. Over the years Branson has marked Virgin Airlines inaugural flights to New Delhi, the Caribbean Islands, Boston and Dallas/Fort Worth, by donning a fitting outfit, from sultan to New England Patriots cheerleader.

In a friendly competition with AirAsia Group (OTCMKTS:AIABF) co-founder Tony Fernandes, Branson's Formula One racing team was outperformed by Fernandes' back in the 2010 Grand Prix. In typical fashion, Branson paid off his dues this May by dressing as a flight attendant -- in drag -- and serving Fernandes en route to Kuala Lumpur.

Michael Jeffries Refuses to Welcome All Sizes, Despite Massive Criticism

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:AF) produces clothes intended for the "in" crowd. Michael Jeffries, the CEO of the clothing company headquartered in Ohio, has historically made it clear that he doesn't want just anybody wearing his label. As competitors like H&M and American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO) have diversified to accommodate a plus-size crowd over the last few years, Jeffries has repeatedly refused to follow suit.

"Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong," said Jeffries in an interview with Salon in 2006.

When Jeffries says that certain people can't belong, he really means it. Abercrombie, which is notorious for its emphasis on its employees physical attractiveness, doesn't stock jean sizes larger than 10, and while it does sell an extra-small size, it does not carry an extra-large size for women. The retailer does offer XL and XXL sizes for men, but Robin Lewis, co-author of The New Rules of Retail, suggested to Business Insider that this is only done to provide more muscular and athletic men with suitable options.

Multiple lawsuits have been brought against the company due to its "Look Policy." One employee was fired for her refusal to remove a hijab, while another applicant claims she was denied the job for the same reason. One employee in London was moved behind the scenes after it was deemed the clothing she used to cover her prosthetic limb also violated the notorious policy.

Jeffries may be willing to ensure certain people don't play a part in his company's image, but with first-quarter net sales down a reported 9% from 2012 to 2013, now might not be the time to exclude some people and irritate others.

Bill Gates Denies His Kids iPods

The world-renowned billionaire and former Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Bill Gates had a relationship with Steve Jobs and Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) that was unlike any other. Equal parts competitive, spiteful, and ultimately, respectful, the interplay between the two tech leaders and their companies has often garnered attention.

Respect aside, there is one thing Gates has refused to budge on: Absolutely no one in his family may use an Apple product.

While Melinda Gates has admitted in an interview with Vogue in 2009 that the iPhone has tempted her before, and that she has politely rejected her kids requests for iPods and offered them Zunes instead, Gates denied that his kids have ever requested an Apple product this January when speaking with Fox Business.

It seems only logical not to bite the hand that feeds by purchasing Apple products, but with the iPhone craze that has swept the nation in the last few years and the notable lack of a Windows Phone culture, Gates's children may not have been very happy with him.

In 2011, there was speculation that Gates's daughter Jennifer was using an iPhone during the family's trip to Australia, providing meaningless commentary in the grand scheme of things, but a noteworthy addition to the alluring Apple vs. Microsoft rivalry.
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