Yesterday at the Worldwide Partners Conference, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner regaled attendees with a tale of the “greatest single phone call in the history that I’ve ever taken in business.” Not to be tripped up by a grammatical error or two, Turner went on to tell the crowd that Apple’s legal team dialed him up a couple weeks ago demanding Microsoft pull its successful “Laptop Hunters” ad campaign from the air (Apple had lowered its prices and the ads, they claimed, were now misleading). There’s no telling whether or not the call went down exactly as Turner said, but who cares? It’s more entertaining to think it did. Which got us thinking of some other epic phone calls we wish we’d been privy to (whether they happened this way or not).
1. Lehman Brothers’ CEO Dick Fuld and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson
We’re not sure which phone call got Dick Fuld’s blood boiling more; the one when he learned Lehman would not be bailed out, or the one when he found out Goldman Sachs would be. However it all went down, the call from the former head of Goldman Sachs to say “I’m finally going to bury your bank, no hard feelings,” probably didn’t go over so well.
2. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and former Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang
The Facebook story is apparently so dramatic that it warrants a book and a film. But all the privacy concerns, the user backlash, the executive infighting, and the seemingly arbitrary firings at the social network’s Palo Alto HQ pale in comparison to the pivotal moment when founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “thanks, but no thanks.” Yahoo put a cool billion on the table, and the boy-executive simply said no. We’re assuming all that came back from the other end of the line was stunned silence.
3. Apple CEO Steve Jobs and former Apple engineering chief Jon Rubinstein
Jobs creates Apple. Apple hires Rubinstein. Rubinstein invents iPod. iPod sells over 200 million units. Then, Rubinstein goes to Palm, takes over the company and starts manufacturing the Palm Pre, a direct competitor to Apple’s iPhone. Jobs, naturally, didn’t take Rubinstein’s career move very well, and while we don’t have it on record, we’re willing to bet Jobs put in a livid call to let Rubinstein know. Imagine: The hippest exec in Silicon Valley completely losing his cool.
4. Bernie Madoff and New York Mets Owner (and Madoff investor) Fred Wilpon
Let’s face it, this one probably never happened. But if it had, we’re pretty sure Wilpon would’ve had to invent some new expletives just to get his point across. We’re picturing a fuming Wilpon hurling invective at his old pal Bernie, who after listening politely offers a decidedly half-hearted apology. More likely, a red-faced Wilpon leaves a lengthy voicemail full of choice words that were never heard.
5. Former General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner and President Barack Obama
There’s no telling if these two executives ever swapped digits, but if they did in fact share an eleventh hour phone call as GM scrambled to avoid bankruptcy, we imagine it went down much like a stern father taking the car keys from a son who broke curfew one too many times. “You can have ’em back when you straighten up and fly right.” GM’s time-out in Chapter 11 is over, but the company is still grounded.
Have we missed a good one? Leave your grandest speculation about a “greatest single phone call in the history” below.