The Most Expensive Mistakes That Cost These Businesses A Fortune
1 Blockbuster Nearly Bought Netflix
One of the most epic business failures was when Blockbuster passed on a chance to purchase Netflix for a mere $50 million. Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO and co-founder, courted a deal in the 2000s with Blockbuster’s chief John Antioco. The streaming service is now worth $19.7 billion.
Barry McCarthy, Netflix’s former chief financial officer, told the Unofficial Stanford blog, “Reed had the chutzpah to propose to them that we run their brand online and that they run [our] brand in the stores and they just about laughed us out of their office. At least initially, they thought we were a very small niche business.”
2 George Lucas Sold The Star Wars Merch Rights
George Lucas sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney in 2013 for $4 billion. While this may have seemed like a smart business move to most, he also gave up the rights to the film’s merchandise in the deal, a move he might now regret.
According to CNBC, Disney already recouped the $4 billion they spent on the acquisition, raking in $4.8 billion in box office sales on the new Star Wars titles. The company has also brought in $3 billion in merchandise alone. One can’t help but wonder if Lucas wishes he’d struck a better deal on the merch.
3 The Sinking Of The Titanic
White Star Line made the mistake of sending the passenger ship, the Titanic, on its maiden voyage in 1912. The ship was an engineering marvel, hosting immaculate staterooms and a grand staircase. On the night of April 15, the “unsinkable” Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic ocean.
The poorly made rivets and only 16 lifeboats to handle 3,300 people made the event even more tragic. White Star Line lost $7.5 million and 1,500 people perished that night, making the sinking of the Titanic an astronomical failure.
4 The Skyscraper That Melts Cars
The “Walkie Talkie” skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street in London made news when the sun’s reflection melted parts of a Jaguar parked on a nearby street. The Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group designed the building with a concave shape that magnified the sun off the south-facing wall.
The vehicle’s owner, Martin Lindsay, told the BBC about his car, “They’ve got to do something about it. It’s absolutely ruined.” He slapped the company with a $1000 bill to fix the Jaguar. They also forced the group to install an expensive sunshade because nearby businesses complained that the sizzling skyscraper caused carpets to catch fire and smoldered storefronts.
5 The Swaying Millennium Bridge
The city of London, England, constructed a bridge over the River Thames to welcome in the new millennium in the year 2000. According to Reader’s Digest, the bridge cost $24.1 million to construct, but the engineers soon discovered that they’d made a costly mistake.
They didn’t consider the massive amount of pedestrians that would walk across it, which made the bridge sway back and forth. The Millennium Bridge was closed just 3 hours after opening and cost $6.6 million in improvements to become safe and passable. Londoners even nicknamed it the “Wobbly Bridge”.
6 Kurt Russell Accidentally Destroys A Rare Guitar
Kurt Russell starred in the Quentin Tarantino film The Hateful Eight and accidentally destroyed a 145-year-old guitar worth $40,000. The scene called for Russell to snatch a prop guitar from Jennifer Jason Leigh and smash it to pieces.
There was just one problem, someone on the set forgot to switch out the guitars, unbeknownst to Russell. He accidentally broke the irreplaceable artifact that was on loan from the Martin Guitar Museum. Leigh opened up about the moment to Billboard, saying, “When Kurt found out, his eyes literally welled up. It ended up being great for the scene.”
7 NASA’s Missing Hyphen
A typo caused an epic fail for NASA during the 1962 Mariner 1 mission. Unfortunately, America’s first interplanetary probe attempt ended in disaster. The vessel’s goal was to conduct a flyby survey of Venus, but things didn’t go as planned.
A missing hyphen in the mathematical code altered the trajectory and speed, causing the craft to explode shortly after takeoff. This one punctuation mistake ended up costing NASA a whopping $80 million. The New York Times covered the story a few days later along with the headline “For Want of Hyphen, Venus Rocket is Lost”. That is one expensive hyphen!
8 The NOAA-N Prime Satellite Drop
Workers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, California, messed up in a big way in 2003. They accidentally dropped the NOAA-N Prime Satellite while attempting to move it. Apparently, an employee failed to secure the satellite with bolts before the relocation, causing it to crash to the floor.
Lockheed offered to donate any profit to cover the repair costs and paid an additional $30 million. The United States government covered the rest of the bill, but the damage was already done. We can’t help but wonder if someone lost their job over this pricey mess up!
9 New Trains Didn’t Fit The Station
The French rail operator SNCF botched a 2014 transportation project when they manufactured trains that were too wide for the station. According to Investing.com, the project comprised 2000 new trains at the cost of $20.5 billion. Yet, things didn’t go as smoothly as planned at the project’s completion.
The mistake happened because the rail operator, RFF, gave the wrong dimensions of the platforms. They didn’t consider that older stations and platforms were smaller, so the trains couldn’t safely pass each other. The estimated damage value totaled $68 million.
10 Hoover’s “Free Flights” Fiasco
The vacuum cleaner company Hoover had one of the worst promotions in history in 1992. The UK branch of the manufacturer offered two free round-trip flights to New York or Orlando with a £100 Hoover purchase. The company couldn’t keep up with the demand when 300k people took advantage of the promotion.
According to Associated Press, Hoover Europe’s former corporate parent, U.S.-based Maytag Corp., eventually paid out $72 million to fly some 220,000 people, but many unhappy customers never received their tickets. This promotion will go down as the most embarrassing blunder in corporate history.
11 The Lost Bitcoin Fortune
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency invented in 2008 and has helped investors make a pretty penny. James Howells made 7,500 bitcoins from the start, which eventually grew to $85 million until he made a careless mistake. Howells accidentally threw away the hard drive, losing his fortune.
He opened up to the Telegraph about the incident, saying, “I kept the hard drive in a drawer at home knowing it contained my Bitcoin private keys so that if Bitcoin did become valuable one day, I would still have the coins I had mined.” Apparently, he accidentally threw it away when he cleaned out his desk.
12 Accidental Fighter Jet Explosion
It’s remarkable how one minor mistake can have huge consequences. A maintenance worker at the Florennes Air Force Base in Belgium had a terrible day in 2018 when he unintentionally blew up a parked F-16 fighter jet.
According to Investing.com, the mishap occurred when the worker accidentally fired a Vulcan cannon at the fighter jet, causing an explosion. Luckily, no fatalities were reported, but two techs suffered head injuries. The incident happened while they were performing maintenance on another jet and the cannon fired, costing the Belgian Air Force $18 million.
13 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
One of the worst disasters in history happened on April 20, 2010. The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and caused a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The fire raged on for days until the tanker sank into the ocean.
The oil spill cost a fortune to clean up and BP spent $65 billion in penalties and towards fixing the environment after the incident. Transocean paid $1.4 billion in fines for violating the US Clean Water Act. This was by far one of the most expensive mistakes ever made, not to mention the terrible impact it had on the environment.
14 Ruined Elias Martinez Painting
Some mistakes don’t have a price tag but are devastating none-the-less. A situation happened in Spain that rocked the art world when a restoration went terribly wrong in 2012. 82-year-old Cecilia Gimenez volunteered to restore the painting, “Ecce Homo” by Elias Garcia Martinez when things went horribly wrong.
She accidentally ruined the painting of Christ in the Santuario de Misericordia during the restoration and the image of Jesus ending up looking more like a monkey than a human. The painting was priceless and Gimenez later admitted during a documentary, “I thought I knew how to restore it, but the paint ran.”
15 NASA’s Lost Satellite
NASA had a massive upset in 1999 when the Mars Climate Orbiter disintegrated in space. The $125 million mistake happened for an embarrassing reason. The team at the Lockheed Martin division used the metric system, while the Jet Propulsion Laboratory followed the Imperial system.
The two different metric systems were a recipe for disaster, and the Orbitor exploded during the mission. Dr. Henry Hertzfeld, director of George Washington University’s space policy institute, told the LA Times, “That is so dumb. There seems to have emerged over the past couple of years a systematic problem in the space community of insufficient attention to detail.”
16 The Submarine That Can’t Resurface
In 2013, the Spanish government spent $2.2 billion to make the state-of-the-art Isaac Peral submarine. Even after spending all that money, they weren’t able to use the submarine because it was too heavy to resurface. An engineer miscalculated the dimensions during the planning stage.
To make matters worse, when engineers attempted to fix the problem, they accidentally made the submarine larger but failed to measure the port. So, the last vessel didn’t even fit inside the port and it was back to the drawing board. These two mistakes were beyond embarrassing for the Spanish government.
17 New Coke Fiasco
Coca-Cola had one of the most epic product flops of all time when they released New Coke in 1985. They created the promotion to compete with Pepsi Cola’s growing success. The soda was a sweeter version of the original Coca-Cola, but there was just one problem: nobody liked it.
New Coke ended up being an expensive marketing mistake, and it was so unpopular that consumers demanded the return of the original Coke. The company spent $4 million developing the new flavor. After the dust settled, they had $30 million worth of unsold New Coke.
18 Apple Founder Sold Shares
Did you know that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had a third founder when they started Apple? Ron Wayne played a pivotal role in the company in the 1970s, he was even the artist of the original Apple logo. Yet, professional disagreements with Jobs ran Wayne from the company, and he sold his stock.
In 1978, he sold his 10% share in Apple for just $800. This one decision ended up costing Wayne at least $35 million, according to what Apple stocks are worth today. Although, he revealed to The Daily Mail that he has no regrets. “I honestly don’t regret walking away at all,” Wayne said.
19 School Funding Error
The Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, made an awkward mistake when his administration botched an application for school funding. “Race to the Top” was a $4.35 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education that awarded schools serving Kindergarten the 12th-grade students. The state of New Jersey missed out on $4 million in funding because of an application error.
An administrator used the date from 2011 instead of 2009, as required on the application. This careless oversight ended up costing the state from receiving any funds from the “Race to the Top” grant. Those poor kids!
20 J-Com Broker Typo
Here’s another story about a typo causing dire consequences. The stock company J-Com made a pricey mistake in 2005 when the firm accidentally listed stocks at 610,000 shares for 1 yen each, but the company intended to sell shares at 610,000 yen each. The stock’s price tanked, and the incident launched an investigation.
Fortunately, J-Com bought back most of the shares and recovered the original stock price. Yet, the typo ended up costing the brokerage firm $225 million to correct and caused a great deal of embarrassment for the company in the financial world.