Skip to Content

Power Sheet: Roger Ailes’ Exit Shows Imbalance of Punishment

Editor-at-Large Jennifer Reingold (@jennrein) is filling in for Geoff Colvin this week.

On Aug. 3, Saatchi & Saatchi chairman Kevin Roberts announced he was retiring earlier than planned for remarks he made to Business Insider about women, including the contention that the diversity debate is “all over,” and that many women opt out of leadership roles rather than being passed over for them.

But his boss, Maurice Levy, head of Saatchi & Saatchi’s corporate parent, Publicis, said something similar in an interview at the 4A’s Transformation conference in March. Levy referred to the allegations of discrimination in a suit filed against the head of a rival agency, JWT—which include charges that the CEO joked in public about raping a female executive—as an aberration in the advertising industry. (JWT’s CEO, Gustavo Martinez, resigned but has denied any harassment.) Levy was criticized and later “clarified” his comments, but never had to fall on his sword as Roberts apparently did.

Then there is Roger Ailes, former head of Fox News, whose alleged serial sexual harassment of women was seemingly tolerated for decades, until former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson sued him.

I am not comparing Ailes to Roberts or Levy in terms of behavior—what Ailes is accused of is despicable, whereas Roberts and Levy are guilty only of tin-eared remarks. But I bring these three men together to point out that business still has no consistent idea how to deal with diversity issues.

How is it that Ailes’ alleged actions were apparently never even investigated by Fox, even after many of them were brought to light in Gabriel Sherman’s 2014 book, The Loudest Voice in the Room? It took a high-profile lawsuit, a seemingly belated corporate investigation—The New York Times and other publications have cited sources asserting 20 or more women have told investigators that Ailes behaved inappropriately with them—and weeks of bad press before the Fox News chief was pushed out—with some $40 million in severance. (Ailes has denied misconduct.)

Compare that process to the rapid departure of a longtime ad agency CEO for making comments about diversity. And here’s the tricky part. Part of what got Roberts in trouble is a statement that many women have made themselves. I’m referring to Roberts’ view that women’s ambitions often don’t consist solely of a desire to make it further up the hierarchy. (I certainly disagree with Roberts’ view that what he called “the fucking [diversity] debate is all over.” I found that offensive, particularly coming from a man.)

What I have trouble with is the arbitrary nature of the punishment. Ailes seemingly engages in a pattern of offensive behavior for decades and leaves only after a struggle (and with $40 million); a few remarks seemed to cost Roberts his job. (Indeed, his swift departure seemed as much a reaction to Levy’s previous misstep as to Roberts’ current one.)

We need to root out deep-seated discrimination against woman at its core. People who do the things that Ailes is accused of have no place in business (or anywhere else, for that matter). But we also need to have open discussions about how to address the lack of diversity in business. That means listening to a wide range of opinions—not all of which we may agree with.

You can share Power Sheet with friends and followers here.

What We’re Reading Today

Walmart may bid for Jet.com
Reports say Doug McMillon‘s Walmart is considering an up to $3 billion bid for Marc Lore‘s Jet.com, the year-old online retailer. The effort speaks to the difficulties Walmart has faced in competing with Jeff Bezos‘s Amazon, particularly online. This would be an aggressive step in that fight, and would include incorporating Lore into Walmart’s fold, who has shown an ability to at least ruffle Amazon.  WSJ

DraftKings, FanDuel win big in New York
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that labels daily fantasy games as “games of skill” as opposed to chance. This will allow Jason Robins‘ DraftKings and Nigel Eccles‘ FanDuel to operate again in the state, which is one the largest markets for daily fantasy. The law does require some new provisions, like parental blocks.  NBC News

Tesla posts a $293 million loss 
Tesla CEO Elon Musk described the second quarter as living in “production hell” as the company didn’t reach new vehicle delivery goals. It did, however, produce a record level of vehicles for a quarter with 18,345. Musk also reiterated his belief that self-driving cars will be coming faster than people expect, which is why he’s moving forward with Autopilot features, despite recent questions over the safety of the autonomous tool. Los Angeles Times

Marissa Mayer talks Verizon deal
Now that the $4.8 billion deal to sell Yahoo is agreed to, CEO Mayer has begun to provide insight into the past couple of years. In the discussion, she breaks down the difficulty of appeasing different shareholders – some that wanted to turn around Yahoo and some that wanted Mayer to capitalize on its Alibaba stakes. The Verizon deal was the only way to appease both sides, says Mayer.  Bloomberg

Building a Better Leader

Political activists find voice in startups
In Silicon Valley startups, political activists are finding ways to tackle big changes that they struggled to institute by pleading with Congress. Inc.

If you’re looking to change careers…
…first see if there’s opportunity for new roles within your current company. Often, completely different jobs can be found, but you can still leverage your previous experiences. Fortune

When you want to introduce a completely new idea…
…show caution. First build your status among your audience – whether it’s consumers or your company’s leaders. That way they know who you are and trust you so it’s easier to gain support from stakeholders. SmartBrief

Changing Tactics

Investigators expand scope of Ailes queries
The effort to determine whether former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes sexually harassed former anchor Gretchen Carlson has expanded to determine what other executives knew. The law firm hired by 21st Century Fox – parent company of Fox News – will seek to uncover if other executives failed to notify or covered up any of Ailes’ reported actions, as now almost 20 women have come forward against him. NYT

Nike dumps golf equipment
While Mark Parker‘s company will continue to produce and develop footwear and clothes for golfers, it will no longer sell golf clubs, balls and other equipment for the sport. While golf used to be one of Nike’s fastest growing segments, it has declined in-step with Tiger Woods‘s game. It was the company’s worst performing segment last year. Fortune

Trump Taj Mahal will close
The Atlantic City casino, which was once owned by Donald Trump, will shutter its doors while in the middle of a labor strike. The decision by current owner Carl Icahn comes as he says he has lost nearly $100 million trying to turn it around. Reuters

Up or Out

Adam Bosworth, a veteran of Microsoft, BEA Systems and most recently Salesforce, is taking a senior position at Amazon Web Services. Fortune

GoDaddy has hired Ray Winborne as CFO. WSJ

Fortune Reads and Videos

Apple’s diversity improves slightly
But the makeup of its leaders remain unchanged, with 62% being male, the same percentage as last year. That could improve as female hires have increased. Fortune

A potential bidder for Hewlett Packard Enterprise…
…says plenty of deals can be found. That’s why private equity firm Apollo Global Management invested $5.9 billion in opportunities during the second quarter, which was more than its top three competitors, combined. Fortune

AB InBev announced that its headquarters will remain in Belgium…
…after the merger with SABMiller goes through. It will wind down SABMiller’s headquarters in London. Fortune

Human trials for the first Zika vaccine move forward
The trials begin just days after the government announced its first travel warning inside the U.S., due to mosquitos in Florida. Fortune

Happy Birthday

President Barack Obama turns 55 today Biography
Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, turns 60 Biography
CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Sheldon Adelson turns 83 Biography

Share Today’s Power Sheet: 
http://fortune.com/newsletter/powersheet/

Produced by Ryan Derousseau
@ryanderous
powersheet@newsletters.fortune.com