Home / Politics / Policy /  Ten memorable resignation letters

L.K. Advani’s resignation on 10 June sparked 24 hours of frantic activity in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before he was prevailed upon to withdraw his letter. Advani isn’t the first political or business leader to have attempted a dramatic exit. Here are some noteworthy resignation letters that fetched their authors a high profile.

1. L.K. Advani, BJP

Whether a political strategy to regain his stature or a sulky tantrum taken too far, Advani’s resignation appeared to hit its target. Within hours, the top leadership of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) called on him and persuaded him to reconsider his decision. Advani had said he was unable to reconcile himself with the “current functioning of the party, or the direction in which it is going".


2. Pope Benedict XVI

The first pope to resign in 600 years, Benedict XVI, who took over after the death of the much-beloved John Paul II, cited deteriorating “strength of body and mind" in his February 2013 note to the Vatican after nearly eight years as its head. The consequent presence of two living popes sparked heated debate in the Catholic world, as he retired, styled ‘Pope Emeritus’, to a monastery on the edges of the Vatican City.


3. Andrew Mason, Groupon CEO

Since going public amid much fanfare at the end of 2011, Groupon’s losses reached $81.1 million in the fourth quarter, wider than the $65.4 million from a year earlier. The board responded by firing CEO Andrew Mason, who in turn sent employees (and then posted online) a memo. “After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding—I was fired today."


4. Greg Smith, Goldman Sachs

Executive director Smith lambasted Wall Street culture in his extremely public opinion piece in the New York Times, calling the environment “toxic and destructive". After 12 years of working for the New York-based investment bank, Smith seemed disgusted: “I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival," he said. Goldman Sachs responded by saying Smith’s was a “minority opinion".


5. Kevin Nalty, Merck

Kevin Nalty quit his job as a consumer product director at pharma giant Merck to pursue his passion for blogging. Apparently inspired by American Idol, Nalty announced his change in career with a YouTube video that urged viewers to “do what you love". Although responses across the internet dismissed his move as disastrous, he seems to have prevailed, with his YouTube Channel now one of the top-20 most-viewed comedy channels, watched more than 236 million times.


6. Jonathon Schwartz, Sun Microsystems CEO

Schwartz had always been at the forefront of the social media revolution, being the first major CEO to publish his own blog. In 2010, however, he took it to the next level by becoming the first Fortune 200 company CEO to deliver his resignation—in the form of a haiku, no less—on Twitter. “Financial crisis/Stalled too many customers/CEO no more," Schwartz wrote. His resignation followed the acquisition of Sun by Oracle, after Sun struggled to post consistent results and its sales continued to decline. He put his internet savvy to use in 2012, launching a start-up site that aims to ease the process of caring for an aging family member.


7. Andrew Lahde, hedge fund manager

Hedge fund manager Andrew Lahde announced his retirement from the financial world at the heart of the subprime crisis in 2008. He admitted he was “in this game for the money", and was lucky to “find people stupid enough to take the other side of (his) trades". “The low-hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking," he said.

The letter goes on to say, “Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the BlackBerry away and enjoy life." An understandable lifestyle choice considering that Lahde posted an 870% gain before quitting.


8. Ramalinga Raju, Satyam chairman

In a startling confession that shocked his peers and sent the Indian stock market tumbling, Ramalinga Raju, chairman of Satyam Computer Services Ltd, confessed in 2009 to cooking the company’s books over several years. The market regulator described it as an event of “horrifying magnitude". In the letter, Raju described how an initial cover-up for a poor quarterly performance escalated: “It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten."


9. Jake DeSantis, AIG

An executive vice president of the American International Group (AIG) financial products unit, DeSantis sent his resignation letter to the executive director but also published it as an opinion piece in the New York Times. After 11 years of working in what he called a “dysfunctional environment", DeSantis said he had nothing to do with the involvement of senior AIG officials in the toxic credit default swaps that were at the heart of the financial crisis, and that he had been “let down" by the company as well as the public officials who came to their aid. Having profited from a skewed investment culture, the move gained him limited sympathy.


10. Anonymous Apple employee

Finally, a resignation “letter" that makes its point simply: an anonymous employee of Apple engineered his computer to leave the following “error" message, echoing the cries of every overworked and underpaid individual who doesn’t have the mainstream news media following their every move. His message: “The designer you treat like shXt has quit unexpectedly."


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