NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Part 1 and Part 2 of this series speculate as to which of our current businesses icons will be remembered beyond our lifetimes (Mike Bloomberg and Steve Jobs) and which will not (Warren Buffett and Jack Welch).Of course, not everyone wants to be remembered! Many business immortals would no doubt prefer to be lost to the mists of history. Charles Ponzi and his infamous schemes immediately come to mind.
So today we visit the dark side. Third-millennium business is not for the faint of heart. It's cursed with ill-conceived and ill-intentioned executives who create havoc for their shareholders, stakeholders and, sometimes, the world at large. Which of these unfortunates from the fields of finance, media, retail and, yes, porn will continue to haunt our collective memories, and which reputations will be buried with the disgraced? Agree, disagree -- please post your comments below.
Martha Stewart: FORGOTTENIt's all very sad. Smart and sassy Martha Kostyra of Nutley, N.J., furiously determines to reinvent herself as the unimpeachable taste-maker Martha Stewart. She succeeds. She makes a billion dollars and becomes the go-to source of home-making advice for millions of America's upper middle class. Then she throws it all away on a dodgy stock trade representing 0.01% of her net worth, or the equivalent of about $10 to the average American. Stewart's obstinate refusal to cop a deal with authorities and her very public trial and conviction confirmed the heretofore rumors that sweet-as-pie Martha was actually a money-grubbing meany.
But, God bless her, Martha soldiers on. Her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia ( MSO) is still a viable concern, though the ongoing legal battle with Macy's ( M) does not inspire confidence. And Stewart refuses to cede her role as America's (diminished) Domestic Diva. She always has some sort of cooking show in production, and she's even done a guest appearance on "Law & Order: SVU." Punch line: While Stewart has acquitted herself well since being sprung from the pen, the first line of her New York Times obituary will inevitably underscore the fact that she's an ex-con. And then she'll be forgotten.
Bernie Madoff: FOREVERSpeaking of Charles Ponzi, Bernie Madoff's name is likewise destined to become an eponym. Soon-to-be-coined idioms like "pulling a 'Madoff'" or "don't 'Madoff' me" will pack a punch for future listeners. The high-profile circumstances of Madoff's misdeeds will likewise ensure that his name lives on. He was already well-known when his wrongs were revealed. The fact that Madoff swindled bold-faced name investors like Zsz Zsa Gabor, Steven Spielberg and Elliot Spitzer in the heart of a world financial capital will also keep his name in play. Plus Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate #61727-054 is alive, healthy and remains eager to muddy the waters.
Incredibly, as reported in a recent Fox News broadcast, banks and regulators are complicit in his crimes. This action, of course, will only incense these powerful institutions to redouble their efforts to finger Madoff as the guilty "lone gunman." Finally, the dramatic suicide of one of Madoff's sons, his own ongoing status as poster boy for "affinity fraud," endless years of litigation and an upcoming movie starring Robert DiNiro will all ensure that his name evokes strong emotions for decades to come.