You're fired! The day I lost my job
For the Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, the deed was done on Sunday in a football stadium corridor. For Jerry Seinfeld, there was simply no script for him one day. Andy McSmith tells the tales of how bad news can be broken
Tuesday 24 May 2011
Mere minutes after Chelsea lost their final Premier League game of the season, away to Everton, the club sacked their manager, Carlo Ancelotti, in a corridor at Goodison Park. Although the Italian led the west London club to a Premier League and FA Cup double last year, and to second place in the league this year, his performance – particularly Chelsea's failure to reach the Champions League final – was deemed unacceptable, and the firing did not come as a surprise. However, it was not the club's billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich, who delivered the killer blow; instead, chief executive Ron Gourlay ended his tenure. "I accept and I respect Chelsea's decision. I spent two fantastic years in this club. I think I did a good job," Ancelotti said. With a year left on his contract, he will receive a settlement of about £6m.
"Football managers are different: they live with the belief they're going to get sacked. I didn't expect it, especially for something we got right," Greg Dyke, the former director general of the BBC says.
He faced a governors' meeting in January 2004, directly after a report by Lord Hutton had criticised the BBC's handling of a complaint from Downing Street about an allegedly inaccurate report into the "sexing up" of a dossier putting the government's case for the Iraq – the affair that led to the death of the government scientist Dr David Kelly.
The entire board was considering resigning. According to Dyke: "I urged them not to all go. You can't have a BBC with nobody there." Although Dyke did not want to lose his job, he told the governors: "If I haven't got your confidence, I can't stay." He added: "At that stage I left the room. An hour or so later I discovered they had decided to suggest I leave."
He is still convinced that the governors were under pressure from the Labour government. "I have no doubt that Tessa Jowell [the culture secretary at the time] wanted me out. But it's a part of my life that is going away."
The former Labour MP and author of best selling diaries of his time in Parliament was a foreign minister responsible for relations with Africa at the time of the 2005 general election. "By about four days after the election, I thought my job was safe," he said.
"At about a quarter to four in the afternoon, I was on the telephone to my opposite number in the US State Department, discussing the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, who was on trial for war crimes. By 4pm, I was no longer a minister.
"A call came from the Downing Street switchboard saying 'the Prime Minister will speak to you now'. Tony came on the line. He was charming.
"There was a few minutes' chit chat about the outcome of the election, then he said – and I'm sure he used the same face-saving words with everyone he sacked – 'I'm sorry Chris, I'm going to have to let you go'. I said: 'Tony, I'm devastated. Why?' and he gave some sort of nonsense about 'no reflection on you'."
The presenter of BBC1's Countryfile was sacked in 2008, when the broadcaster decided to revamp the show and hire two younger presenters for its new prime-time slot. It was revealed that the decision was made "in a one sentence conversation" with Jay Hunt, the former controller of BBC1.
The presenter sued the BBC in an employment tribunal and won a landmark ruling this year. While the broadcaster claimed it chose new "second tier" presenters over O'Reilly, 54, because they had "substantial network profile that might attract primetime audience", the judge decided that she had been subject to "direct age discrimination and age victimisation".
O'Reilly, who is returning to BBC to present the new Crimewatch Roadshow next month, said she would never have expected her story to have such a positive end when she was fired three years ago. "I was sat down and told I would not be going forward to present the prime-time show – it was so shocking and sudden," she said.
After the court ruling O'Reilly said she "received a personal phone call from the Director General Mark Thompson, apologising for the way I was dismissed. Lots still needs to be done and it won't happen overnight, but you can't let being fired destroy you – you have to move forward in your life."
Before he found success with the sitcom bearing his name, Jerry Seinfeld was trying to make it as a comedian and an actor playing a bit part in the late 70s/early 80s sitcom Benson. The young Seinfeld had secured a small recurring role as a mail boy in three episodes of the show across 1980 and 1981. His career on the ABC programme looked to be ticking over nicely until one day he turned up to work on a read-through of what would be his fourth episode and was unable to find his copy of the script anywhere.
Eventually he asked an assistant director, who replied that he had been fired from the show but that nobody had remembered to inform him.
When Piers Morgan was unceremoniously frogmarched out of the Daily Mirror's office in 2004, he became one of the youngest ex-editors in Fleet Street. He was just 39 when he was sacked from the tabloid after it conceded that photos it had published of British soldiers abusing an Iraqi were fake.
The paper said it was the victim of a "calculated and malicious hoax" and that it would be "inappropriate" for the editor to continue. While it was not suggested that Morgan knew the photos were fake, the Queen's Lancashire Regiment said the Mirror had endangered British troops by running the pictures.
For Morgan, who has since hit the spotlight as a judge on Britain's Got Talent and its American spin-off before replacing Larry King as the host of CNN's flagship talkshow, his sacking was the best thing that had ever happened to him.
He said: "The highlight of the entire decade was my old boss at the Daily Mirror firing me, with the words 'Piers, you are never going to work in this town again', and how right was she? I now work in Hollywood!
"I found the whole thing very entertaining. Had a bit of a party the night it happened, went down to my village the next day and had another party – everyone seemed to find it terribly funny – and for a whole number of reasons it felt like the right time. I thought, 'If you're going to go, go with a huge bang'."
A chapter of Lord Mandelson's memoirs has the title "Being Fired" – an experience he underwent twice in his Cabinet career. The second arose from an obscure row over whether or not he rang the Home Office to help a wealthy Indian obtain a passport. As the controversy entered its fourth day, he was summoned to Tony Blair's office.
"The longer the conversation went on, the clearer it became that in Tony's view, I should fall on my sword. Alastair (Campbell) had started to grow impatient. He said he needed to 'get the story out' for the morning lobby briefing.
"Alastair was egging Tony on. He and the Home Office had, wrongly, convinced themselves that I had misled them. Alastair was now fuming at having misled the lobby journalists, and was behind schedule for his next briefing. When he left the room, I could see there was no persuading Tony.
"In a final, feeble appeal, I said: 'You're not going to end my entire ministerial career for this, without even knowing the full picture?' He replied, 'I'm sorry. There's no other way. It's decided.'
Neil Warnock has been a football manager for 31 years, during which he has been in charge at a dozen clubs. Being fired occasionally is a fact of life in management – as the weekend's Ancelotti incident attests – and the current QPR boss has been shown the door four times.
The most brutal was at Plymouth in January 1997, six months after he had steered the club to promotion. The relationship between Warnock and the club chairman, Dan McCauley, had soured to the extent they only communicated by fax, but he still thought he would be told personally if McCauley decided to sack him. Instead, while driving to a match to scout a player, he received a call from the vice-chairman intimating his time may be up. Soon reporters were phoning him.
Warnock recalled: "I had to tell them I didn't know about it yet. It was a bit embarrassing. For me and the chairman. Not a particularly classy way of going about things."
Warnock was fired from his next job too, at Oldham. He knew this was coming when, after being assured by the club that he would receive a new contract and could put down a deposit on a house in the area, he took the team to Grimsby for the last game of the season.
Oldham won 2-0, and after each goal none of the club's directors celebrated, one even putting his head in his hands. Warnock went home to his wife and two-week-old baby and confidently told her he would not be getting a new deal. The following day he was summoned to the ground where this was confirmed.
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