The Most Costly Decisions Ever Made

Tiger Woods sleeps with multiple women who aren’t Elin Nordegren

Divorce settlement in 2010: $110 million
At the end of in 2009, America was shook by reports that Tiger Woods had engaged in multiple illicit sexual affairs. Within a year, Tiger agreed to a $750 million divorce settlement with Elin Nordegren.
Total cost of this mistake was even higher if you include stock loss for Nike, Gatorade and other sponsors. One professor put the cost as high as $12 billion.

Captain Edward Smith crashes the Titanic into an iceberg

Money lost in 1909: $7.5 million in shipbuilding costs
Inflation-adjusted: $168 million
The passenger liner, The Titanic, sunk on its maiden voyage from England to the United States in 1912. The Titanic was known as the unsinkable ship, specifically designed to make the long journey to America with no possible chance of sinking.
But one night, the ship crew ignored warnings of icebergs in their path and went onward. The ship hit an iceberg and scraped the entire right side, causing the boat to sink and killed 1,517 people.

An elderly man throws away a Euromillions lottery ticket

Loss in 2010: $181 million
A woman in England who played the lottery every week picked the correct numbers to win the Euromillions, but her husband threw the ticket away. The elderly woman knows she picked the winning numbers because she writes them down on a separate sheet of paper each week before she turns the ticket over to her husband.

NASA uses the metric system while Lockheed Martin uses the English system when building a satellite

Cost of the lost orbiter: $125 million
Inflation-adjusted: $165.6 million
In 1999 a team of Lockheed Martin engineers used the English system of measurement, while the rest of the team used the metric system for a Mars orbiter.
The use of two different measurement systems prevented the spacecraft’s navigation coordinates from being transferred from a spacecraft team in Denver to a lab in California. The orbiter was then lost in space, and NASA was out $125 million.

New Mexico loses control of a controlled burn in the Cerro Grande

Loss in 2000: $1 billion in property damage
Inflation-adjusted: $1.3 billion
The Cerro Grande fire in New Mexico in 2000 started as a prescribed fire which spread due to high winds and drought conditions. The flames burned for more than a month, destroyed close to 48,000 acres, and left more than 400 families without homes.

Faulty equipment causes a B-2 stealth bomber to crash on takeoff

Loss in 2008: $1.4 billion
Inflation-adjusted: $1.42 billion
On a practice flight in Guam, America’s most expensive jet was destroyed when faulty sensors caused it to pitch up on takeoff, stall and crash, according to the Air Force. The B-2 stealth bomber, one of 21 in existence at the time, cost $1.4 billion.
Both pilots were able to eject safely.

A hunter starts the biggest fire in California history

Loss in 2003: $1.2 billion in insured losses
Inflation-adjusted: $1.5 billion
In the fall of 2003, a lost hunter lit a signal flare near the San Diego County Estates. The fire spread and became the largest fire in California’s history. The fire destroyed close to 300,000 acres, 2,322 homes, and killed 14 people.

Ford builds the Edsel

Loss in 1959: $250 million in development costs
Inflation-adjusted: $1.85 billion
Ford introduced the Edsel in 1957, only to stop production by 1959. Retail sales were much lower than expected and the continued production of the car was not justified. The classic car was the wrong car, for the wrong market, at the wrong time.

Quaker buys Snapple

Overpayment in 1994: $1.4 billion
Inflation-adjusted:  $2.03 billion
In 1994, Quaker purchased the then new Snapple for $1.7 billion. Quaker’s goal was to sell Snapple in every grocery store in the country, but Snapple was so successful in small brand name grocery stores, chains like Pepsi and Coca-Cola began making copy cat brands.
After three years with Snapple, Quaker sold the company for just $300 million.

Rupert Murdoch has an affair with Wendi Deng

Divorce settlement in 1999: $1.7 billion
Inflation-adjusted: $2.2 billion
After 32 years of marriage, the Murdochs called it quits in 1999. Of the $1.7 billion in assets Rupert gave to Anna, $110 million was in cash. After the split, Rupert was married just 17 days later to 30-year-old Wendi Deng, with whom he had an affair while married to Anna.

Faulty equipment causes nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island

Loss in 1978: $836.9 million in repairs and clean up
Inflation-adjusted: $2.8 billion
Due to an equipment malfunction, water meant for cooling uranium fuel burst from its containment chamber. Three Mile Island is the worst nuclear accident in American history, however, no one was killed.

Yasuo Hamanaka tries to corner the copper market

Loss in 1996: $2.6 billion
Inflation-adjusted: $3.58 billion
The former chief copper at Sumitomo Corporation attempted to corner the copper market in 1996. Hamanaka controlled as much as five percent of the world’s copper, before prices dropped and his scheme collapsed. In June his trade led to a reported loss of $1.8 billion, which had swelled to $2.6 billion by September. Hamanaka was sentenced to eight years of prison.

Safety inspectors forget to replace a valve at the Piper Bravo Oil Rig

Money lost in 1994: $3.4 billion in repairs
Inflation adjusted price: $5.1 billion
In May of 1994, oil workers were evacuated from the Piper Bravo Oil Rig after an explosion. The explosion killed 167 of the 226 men working.
During a routine check, inspectors removed and replaced all safety valves, except for one, which was never put back. Unaware that the safety valve was missing, a worker pushed the start button, and gas began to leak out.

Sony buys Columbia Pictures

Write-down in 1994: $3.2 billion
Inflation-adjusted: $5.6 billion
In 1989, Sony scooped up Columbia Pictures for $4.8 billion. But the cost of the deal increased when Sony had to spend $200 million to buy another production company and $500 million to settle a lawsuit. All this to produce such movies as Blankman. By 1994 Sony took a $3.2 billion write down on the deal.

Various parties are blamed as the Prestige sinks off the coast of Spain

Loss in 2002: $5.7 billion in repairs and clean up
Inflation-adjusted: $6.9 billion
In 2002, an oil tanker, Prestige, sank of the coast of north-east Spain, dumping 63,000 tons of oil into the ocean.
The spill alone cause the death of over 300,000 birds and a significant amount of damage to marine life in the area.

Captain Joe Hazelwood crashes the Exxon-Valdez into Prince William Sound

Money lost in 1989: $4.4 billion in clean up and repairs
Inflation adjusted value: $7.8 billion
In 1989, an Exxon oil tanker was on its way to California when it hit the Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska. The tanker spilled as many as 760,000 barrels into the water off the Alaska coastline. Captain Hazelwood was accused of being drunk at the time of the accident and convicted of negligent discharge of oil.

Faulty equipment causes the Challenger to explode on liftoff

Money lost in 1986: $5.5 billion was the cost of building the Challenger
Inflation adjusted value: $11.1 billion
In January of 1986, the Challenger, a NASA space shuttle, exploded just 72 seconds into its flight. All seven crew members on board died in the explosion.
The explosion was blamed in part to NASA’s faulty design. A combination booster joint with weak sealant, combined with freezing temperatures, caused the explosion.

Faulty equipment causes the Columbia to crash on liftoff

Lost in 2003: $13 billion was the cost of building the space shuttle
Inflation adjusted value: $15.6 billion
The Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed in February of 2003, just six minutes before it was scheduled to land. When the space shuttle launched, a hole was punctured in one of the wings, which could have been part of the problem for this crash.
All seven crew members died in the crash.

Terra buys Lycos

Overpayment in 2000: $11.6 billion
Inflation-adjusted: $15.7 billion
In 2000, Spanish telecom company, Terra took a gamble on Lycos, an internet search engine. Lycos was at the time the third most visited site in America, but after the dot com bubble burst, Lycos faded. In 2004, the search engine was sold to South Korea-based Daum Communications Corporation for $95.4 million in cash.


TEPCO and nuclear regulators ignore warnings that Fukushima Nuclear Plant can’t stand up to a tsunami

Estimated cost to shut down the reactors: $12 billion
After a tsunami slammed the Fukushima nuclear plant, operator TEPCO said it will cost $12 billion to contain the damage. Injury and other damages may push the total higher.
Although it’s to early to assign blame for the crisis, there is evidence of various warnings about the aging facilities that were ignored or suppressed by TEPCO and the Japanese government.

Mercedes-Benz buys Chrysler

Overpayment in 1998: $20 billion
Inflation-adjusted: $26.6 billion
In 1998, Mercedes-Benz merged with Chrysler to create Daimler Chrysler, for $37 billion. But the merger didn’t work out as planned and by 2007, Mercedes sold Chrysler Cerberus Capital Management for only $7 billion.

AOL buys Time Warner for $182 billion, spins off at $36 billion

Overpayment in 2000: $146 billion
Inflation-adjusted: $183 billion
AOL bought Time Warner for $182 billion at the peak of the Dot Com Bubble. Nine years later, Time Warner spun off with a market cap of $36 billion — a $178 billion loss. The newly separated AOL was valued at only $2.5 billion.

Faulty equipment causes nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl

Money lost in 1986: $358 billion in clean-up and the value of lost farmland

Inflation adjusted price: $720 billion

In 1986, four reactors went out of control during a test which led to an explosion and fire. The fire destroyed the reactor building in its entirety. The explosion also released an unsafe amount of radiation into the air. The explosion caused the immediate death of two plant employees and then in the months following, 28 firefighters and clean-up workers died because of exposure to the radiation.


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