Musings on Sports, Politics and Life in general

Noob of the Month: Bill Oesterle

Noob (n.): A person who attempts to make themselves look good in society by demonstrating a desirable trait, despite not actually possessing that trait. (var. n00b)

Bill Oesterle, Co-Founder and CEO, Angie’s List. Also, the n00b of the Month.

Hello, everyone. Meet Bill Oesterle. Who is Bill Oesterle, you might ask? Chances are, if you aren’t a resident of Indiana, you have no idea who he is. But you’ve probably heard of the company he founded, Angie’s List. And if you do live in Indiana, you know that Bill Oesterle has been a behind-the-scenes political mover for the past twenty years. While his name didn’t come to national prominence during the recent hullaboo over Indiana’s RFRC dust-up, he certainly injected his company into the fray in a big way.

Oesterle made headlines on March 28 when he announced that Angie’s List, the company he founded and of which he was CEO, was “rethinking” a proposed $40 million expansion of the company’s Indianapolis headquarters, potentially nixing 1100 jobs, because of the controversial law. Democrats seized upon the news with fervor, saying the RFRC was costing the city and state good jobs. Bill Oesterle was an instant hero to the left: here was a big-company CEO putting his money in concert with his beliefs and punishing the evil-doers on the right. That Oesterle has been a player in the state’s Republican Party didn’t hurt, either. After all, if a good, stalwart Republican was denouncing the RFRC with such vehemency, what  the hell was the law doing, anyway?

And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, for the rest of the story.

Angie’s List may be a behemoth in Indianapolis and Bill Oesterle may be big-time player in Indiana politics, but Angie’s List is a company in serious trouble. Since peaking at around $28 two years ago, share prices have plummeted to around $6 today. Under Oesterle’s leadership, the company has gone 241 consecutive quarters without turning a profit. The company’s investors are beyond nervous. Google and Amazon are eating away at Angie’s List market share, forcing Angie to rethink their entire subscription-based strategy.

As for that $40 million expansion? 3 1/2 weeks before Oesterle made his announcement about shelving the project, the Indianapolis City Council and Indiana legislature shelved it for him. Seems the state and city have a few reservations and weren’t quite so sure it was a good deal for the taxpayers. Why? The city and state were expected to pick up $25 million of the $40 million project. It was, like most of Oesterle’s business deals, good for Angie’s List and good for Bill Oesterle, but kind of meh for an investor. The city council has essentially told Angie, show us a the money – and for a company that’s only expecting $30 million in revenue this year, that’s a tall order.

All of this duplicity finally caught up to Oesterle on Monday. He resigned/was forced out as CEO of the company he founded, replaced with…nobody. I guess the investors simply got tired of paying the guy a salary north of $800,000 for no return on their investment.

Not too worry about him, though. Oesterle has already got his next gig lined up, or at least he hopes he does. 11 years ago he chaired former Indiana governor Mitch Daniel’s campaign. Three years ago, he raised over $1.3 million for Mike Pence’s campaign. Now, he plans on running his own campaign for governor.

So, connect the dots. Your job is in trouble; deep, deep trouble. You need an escape hatch. Wait – GOT IT! The only thing, other than legally scamming people out of money, you’ve ever done well is politics. Problem is, a friend currently occupies the only job you want. But friends, shmends. He just signed a law that is causing the latest teapot tempest. If you can take advantage of that, do something to knock him down a few rungs while building yourself up as the sainted avenger – GOT IT! That expansion deal that went south. Shout from the rooftops with all your might that your company is killing the deal because your friend is an evil man. Play it up. And when the axe falls, tell everyone that you’ll make a fine governor, the perfect man to “begin the long process of repairing” the state’s image.

Congratulations, Bill. For playing the hero when the reality is you’re one of the most cowardly CEOs and politicians of the past decade, you’ve won the Noob of the Month award.

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