Why Don't Business Leaders Assassinate Competitors?

Billions of dollars are at stake in the global market, and cutthroat competition often crosses the line into illegality. Corporate espionage is commonplace.

But why stop at stealing your competitor’s ideas? It’s relatively easy to hire an assassin, and research shows that the death of a CEO can cause marked decline in profits. So, the Overcoming Bias blog asks a good question: Why don’t more business leaders have each other assassinated?

Is it for the same reason that international custom expressly prohibits political assassinations?


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  1. Nicholas Weaver says:

    Mutually assured destruction…

    Remember, if you hire an assasin to kill a competitor, you now have set the precident that your competitor’s successor can hire an assasin to kill you.

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  2. JJK says:

    Smithsonian magazine recently ran an article about a company that makes synthetic diamonds (that is, real diamonds made in the laboratory). The guy who runs the company is secretive about exactly where his plant is located, and otherwise takes measures to try and avoid too much surveillance. (Frankly, I’m surprised he along with the magazine article; I’d have expected him to shun that type of publicity.)

    The reason seems to be that he’s afraid of being assassinated by De Beers, whose diamond quasi-monopoly is worth billions of $/year and who have always ruthlessly guarded their commercial monopoly against competitors. It would probably make good business sense for them to bump him off, a fact that has not escaped his attention.

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  3. elhondo says:

    Common interest.

    Company A pays to kill Company B CEO. Stock dives, but competition is still valid, and stock rebounds.

    Board of Directors figures out that CEO’s aren’t actually that important and lowers pay of Company A’s CEO.

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  4. Paula Hall says:

    Perhaps because to assassinate one’s competitors is as abject an admission of incompetence that could be made. Such a “businessman” admits by such an action that he feels helpless to truly compete on the basis of offering value to the market; and that his only hope of making profits is to physically destroy people who are better at his job than he is, and then expropriate what they’ve produced.

    How many real businessmen want to publicize their incompetence? The only kind of “businessman” who would do this is one who feels that he cannot survive with his mind as well as he can by brute force. But that’s not a businessman, that’s a mobster.

    As an aside — why do you think it is the case that mobsters and gangsters are always trying to extort “respect” at gunpoint? It’s because they know that, by living as a looter and not a producer, they have made public their self-evaluation as helpless to earn true respect through the voluntary approbation of others. They actually hold themselves in contempt; and try to fool themselves that those who fear them actually “respect” them.

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  5. mmm says:

    Because getting caught authorizing the assassination would be doubly harmful to your company, your freedom, and the business environment?

    No one, but the two companies, really cares about corporate espionage. The “costs” are mostly internal. And, the benefits are potentially good for society as a whole.

    Murder leaves a decidedly different taste in one’s mouth. Murder not only deprives a competitor’s COMPANY of value–if we assume the above factoid is correct–but actually imposes significant costs on the person on the receiving end of the bullet.

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  6. BT says:

    What about fear of being exposed. I think a company being convicted of or associated with the killing a competitor’s CEO would suffer major devastation, both in terms of reputation as well as financial losses. It is probably not worth it,

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  7. Mike says:

    Do you really think the amount of money at stake is what causes people to abandon their morality? No, a man may kill another over $5.

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  8. Ty says:

    I would say it is as simple as CEO’s and business leaders not being invested in the well being of their company enough to risk going to jail. In this case the incentive not to commit murder far outweighs the benefits. Anyone at a company in the position to organize some sort of corporate assassination probably makes enough that the incentive not to go to jail is great enough to prevent this. Also assuming that people have the common decency to not let any business struggle get to that point..

    None of that argument works unless all involved are rational though, which assuredly isn’t always the case

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