Why Companies Can't Stop Top Execs From Blasting Off To Space or Flying Fighter Jets

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2021-07-25 22:00:08

When Jeff Bezos returned to Earth after a trip to the edge of space, there were sighs of relief — and it's likely some of them were from board members of the $1.8 trillion company he started 27 years ago.

For Amazon's founder and executive chairman, the trip on Tuesday aboard a rocket from his venture Blue Origin may have been the realization of a childhood dream.

But for corporate boards, any time a top executive does something dangerous, it ends up posing a major risk to the the company's bottom line.

A person with a self-described "adrenaline drive," Bertolini got his first dirt bike when he was 8 years old, and today, he owns three Harley-Davidson motorcycles and a Ducati. Bertolini also loves downhill skiing.

"When I was first named CEO and chairman and was asked to look at a contract, they had skiing and motorcycling in there as exclusions," Bertolini remembers. "I told them that wouldn't work for me."

Aetna's board had good reason to try to hold Bertolini back. Just a few years before he was named CEO in 2010, Bertolini had been skiing in Vermont. He looked over his shoulder to check something; he hit a tree and dived headfirst into a river.

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