Where Do You Draw the Line Between a CEO’s Corporate and Personal Life?

When CEOs need to blow off steam, many turn to extreme hobbies like racing yachts, flying planes or even space travel. But since these activities are dangerous (and can be fatal) should corporate boards be allowed to regulate a CEO's extracurricular activities? Where do you draw the line between a CEO's corporate life and his personal life?

As evidenced here, chief executives relieve their stress through many different hobbies or projects.  Flying airplanes is a common past time. The CEO of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, took flight in an even more extreme fashion when he was Canada’s first private space tourist.

But flying is dangerous. Last month, Micron Technology CEO Steven Appleton was killed when piloting a single engine aircraft.  Appleton’s accident caused The Wall Street Journal to ask whether boards of directors should be allowed to restrict CEOs from participating in certain activities (the focus of the article was on flying airplanes).

That question should be even broader: where is the line between a CEO’s corporate life and personal life?

A CEO’s livelihood is extremely important to a company’s success, so is it fair for the board to restrict a CEO’s activities? When a person becomes a big-time CEO does their personal life disappear?

Some people, including one CEO, see a responsibility to monitor hobbies:

  • “The Micron tragedy should be a wake-up call for boards. [The CEO’s hobby] is something the directors should be worried about…boards should consider tucking a CEO’s highly dangerous recreational behavior into their risk-factor disclosures” – William M. Mower, partner at Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand LLP
  • A CEO has “a responsibility that goes beyond your private life…You give up some of your freedoms.” – CA CEO Bill McCracken
  • “To the extent they can be, they should be controlled.” Scotts Miracle-Gro CEO Jim Hagedorn says of CEOs with risky hobbies

One lawyer noted that if CEOs do participate in risky behavior, their boards should make sure to have a strong and well-planned succession plan in case of an emergency.

Not everyone thinks that it’s fair for a board to regulate executives’ personal lives and hobbies:

  • “I don’t need a member of the board who doesn’t know a prop from a jet telling me what to do.” – Calamos Asset Management founder John Calamos Sr.

Where is the line? And should companies disclose their CEO’s hobbies?


Read: Executive No-Fly Zone?


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