No, I’m not shocked that Evan Spiegel, the walking, breathing PR disaster slash executive officer and co-founder of Snapchat slash bro is in trouble again. He’s an idiot, plain and simple. But the newest allegations are bigger than Spiegel and will speak volumes about how we as a public hold business leaders accountable. There will be telling signs about whether we have double standards for different kinds of business leaders, those in tech as opposed to other industries, young versus old, and more.
Spiegel’s most recent incident involves emails leaked to Valleywag (see post for all emails) from his time as the social chair at Stanford’s Kappa Sigma fraternity. The difference between Spiegel and other recent business elite who have been in trouble is that they have more or less focused their bad behavior in one area. Concrete evidence was finally provided that Donald Sterling is an extreme racist. For that, he’ll be losing ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers. After allegedly beating his girlfriend, Gurbaksh Chahal avoided 45 felony charges but couldn’t avoid the wrath of the American public. He was removed from his position as CEO of RadiumOne. Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam was ousted after annotating the recent Santa Barbara shooter’s manifesto earlier this week. In the case of Spiegel, though, you have a choice of what to dislike most. Included in emails to his bros are messages of misogyny, homophobia and racism (assuming that you, too, consider a party including a Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson theme racist).
On the other hand, Apple is about to buy Beats Electronics for $3 billion, its largest acquisition ever, from Andre Young and Jimmy Iovine. Andre, or Dr. Dre as he is better known, has a troubled past of his own, but as far as business is concerned, it hasn’t seemed to hold him back. He was once charged with hunting down TV personality Dee Barnes at a record release party, picking her up, slamming her face and right side of her body against a wall, attempting to throw her down a flight of stairs, kicking her in the ribs when he failed, following her into the women’s bathroom and continuing to punch her. Why, you ask – who wouldn’t ask why? For trying to interview fellow N.W.A. member Ice Cube, something the group apparently frowned upon at the time. There have been a few other assault-related arrests, including one on a police officer. In all fairness, most of Dr. Dre’s legal troubles took place in the early 90s and a lot of people believe in second chances.
Upon finding out that Apple was interested in buying Beats, Dr. Dre and friends uploaded a drunken video to YouTube in which he announced: “The first billionaire in hip hop, right here from the motherfuckin’ West Coast.” Very fratboyish move if you ask me. According to several sources, he’s also considering buying the Los Angeles Clippers, so life is good for him right now. From a purely survival perspective, Spiegel might be able to just wait this whole situation out.
Age will be taken into consideration when many people decide how harshly to judge Spiegel, a 23-year-old. And it should be, when judging him as a person. While it would be fair to assume that someone like Sterling, 80, has had ample time to shape their world views, Spiegel is still a young man and may not be so set in his ways. When judging him as a business leader, however, age should play no significant role. The same standards should be applied across the board.
Industry will be taken into consideration when deciding how harshly to judge Spiegel. In many industries, this would be career ending. In technology, though, it’s not uncommon for young, immature men to start and run billion dollar companies (think Zuckerberg in his early 20s). From an investor’s standpoint, this might not hurt the company so badly after all. As we saw with the security breaches several months ago, the average Snapchat user isn’t easily ruffled, possibly due to the fact that they don’t know what they should be bothered about.
We’ll have to wait and see if these newly leaked emails cause enough outrage to call for the removal of Spiegel, but I think there should be more talk about what we as a public demand from the business leaders we reward with millions and billions of dollars. Racism is wrong, whether you’re 80 or 23. Beating women – or anyone – is wrong, whether you’re an advertising CEO or a rapper turned entrepreneur. Of course it’s ideological and naïve to think that business mogul and role model are synonymous, but there have to be some universal standards.