Seagate CEO apologizes for porn remark
A few weeks ago, I posted some out-takes from a candid interview with Bill Watkins, the CEO of hard-drive kingpin Seagate Technology (STX). The column generated a slew of positive feedback from readers who called Watkins a true leader and vowed to buy Seagate drives exclusively from now on. Valleywag even deemed Watkins a hero for his refreshing candor. But the reaction inside Seagate was much different. Apparently, the company's Minneapolis office in particular was up in arms over Watkins' lack of restraint when talking with the media. So much so that Watkins chose to address the troops in a memo that has been obtained by The Browser. Here it is in its entirety:

From time to time, we gather our senior leadership team with the journalists who regularly cover this company and the sector as a means of maintaining positive relationships with the media. Most recently, we gathered a group of bloggers in a San Francisco restaurant where I explained to many of them what I believe to be the drivers of growth of the storage industry. In the course of one particular conversation with a Fortune Magazine blogger, in which we discussed a number of topics including sports, business and politics, I also explained how the proliferation of digital content and e-commerce were benefiting the storage business. In illustrating both the positive and negative impacts that the Internet and "we" as technology companies have on the world, unfortunately, and unwisely, I also used pornography as an example to illustrate a point. Fortune Magazine chose to focus narrowly on this example in their headline. I did not state this as our "mission." They are in the news business and eager to get their reader's attention and I should have known better. Even though I believe Fortune's headline writers took my comments out of context, I want you to know that I am sorry if this has in any way offended anyone. Clearly, I value everyone who works at Seagate and the culture we have built together.

Bill

It doesn't sound like the Watkins I had dinner with, but the letter's authenticity has been confirmed by Seagate officials. Frankly, I don't think Watkins had anything to apologize for. Just goes to show how tough it is to be a CEO and an actual human at the same time.
Posted by jeffo 3:55 PM 17 Comments comment | Add a Comment

Just goes to show the stupidity of the media, and the reason why "stepping on eggshells" has become 2nd nature to breathing.
Posted By Charlie, Hillsborough NJ : 3:58 PM  

Actually, I goes to show how stupid society is in general. This CEO shouldn't be apologizing for telling the truth. He could have easily said I help software pirates store illegal software or I help kids train to be efficient killers on Doom and at leaast a few of the computers they use have a Seagate hard drive in it.

The guy didn't say he condoned pornography or created the content.

If anyone was offended by his comment or believe their first amendment rights were under attack, for the love of God, get a life. Americans are way too quick today to announce how their rights are being attacked over any stupid thing they can find.
Posted By Paul, Round Top TX : 4:20 PM  

Watkins rules! The coolest CEO I've seen around. Go Seagate! -former employee, and forever Seagate fan
Posted By Ilya, San Francisco, CA : 4:21 PM  

Typical corporate over-reaction and over the top political correctness. Bill's comments were dead on. I think its insulting that someone in HR felt the audience reading the review wouldn't be intelligent enough to know the deeper meaning behind his comments. Rich media is driving the storage and network/routing business. Porn, family movies, software, whatever... his comments got his company in the headlines. Kudos to him for being on the edge and willing to take risks to raise further awareness about his company.
Posted By Jim Goldstein, San Francisco, CA : 4:43 PM  

Just another example of the political correct being completely out of touch with reality! His comments were great and no apology was need.....truth be told :-)
Posted By John, Phoenix,AZ : 5:02 PM  

Watkins shouldn't apologize for an irresponsible headline writer. His comments were fine -- when taken in context. But, without reading the story, people can clearly get the wrong idea about Watkins and Seagate. The porn comment was but part of one sentence about a variety of topics. Though you'd like to think that people could look past the sensationalism of the headline, I can see how Seagate's personnel/clients/partners could be a little put off by seeing "Seagate" and "Porn" in the same 24 pt bold headline.
Posted By Rob, Washington DC : 5:19 PM  

He had nothing to apologize for. In fact, as CEO it's his JOB to know what his customers are doing with his product and why, how it's being used, where the demand is, and so on. Knowing those things are his responsibility to the company, to the shareholders, to the employees and to the face he sees in the mirror every morning. Some CEOs might like to lie to themselves or have employees feeding them pat answers, but this guy actually seems in touch. That's damned impressive. More CEOs should be like this. The only other one I can think of off hand is Bob Parsons over at GoDaddy.com. These are CEOs to watch.
Posted By Pat, Atlanta GA : 5:33 PM  

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.
Posted By Jim Ledbetter, New York, NY : 5:36 PM  

I posted this on December 1:

Some readers think that the headline on this interview with Seagate CEO Bill Watkins was over the top. In a freewheeling exchange with Fortune's Jeffrey O'Brien, Watkins said: "Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn."

I personally and professionally found that statement to be astounding, as well as funny and remarkably self-deprecating. That's why, as O'Brien's editor on this story, I moved the quote high up in the story, and also turned it into a headline that, yes, I thought would grab the reader's attention. Does that make us, as one reader put it, "right up there with the tabloids"? I didn't think so, but I'm sensitive to readers' concerns, so let me say for the record: We're certainly not trying to say that Watkins or Seagate promotes pornography per se. I suppose if you read the headline without reading the rest of the story, you might think that we were. So if that's misleading, I apologize. At the same time, I think readers would do better to focus on the fact that a CEO of a public company that makes computer hard drives really did say that the end result of his firm's product is helping people buy more crap and watch porn. Also, it's worth noting that a number of readers wrote to O'Brien saying that the interview made Watkins look like a genuine leader. So go figure.
Posted By Jim Ledbetter, New York, NY : 5:41 PM  

The words can only offend those who feel offended. It seems to me that every day we are tightening society as how far we can go. I just wonder if we are on a mission of self destruction.
Mr. Watkins definitely was making a point, which consider on the true context, you going to find a truth on it. He is not promoting pornography, he is making known that the storage business is definitely benefiting even from the "bad" side of the economy.
Posted By Jim, Miami, Florida : 6:59 PM  

well, remember that in most of the mainstream media and in public education, businesspeople have been portrayed as less than human for decades. that has an indubitable effect, given businesspeople's need to be both quantitative and qualitative leaders.
Posted By michael, davis, california : 9:33 PM  

I absolutely agree with your last remark that Mr Bill Watkins has anything to apologize for when what he said is the stark reality of the market place. Those in Seagate, of all the people in the world who benefits from the development of the Internet which directly benefits the employees of Seagate should acknowledge that it was the porn industry which hastens the Internet development and progress.
Posted By Jim, Singapore : 12:21 AM  

My next hard drive will be a Seagate.
Posted By Rich, Corning NY : 9:07 AM  

Jeffo:
You're comment is disingenuous in that you neatly ignored the comment about the headline taking his comment out of context in order to get attention. Maybe doing so is accepted jounalistic practice, but it sure does not encourage a speaker to be candid. It also cause me to question the accuracy of the reporting.
Posted By AB Columbus, Ohio : 10:17 AM  

I sat next to Bill Watkins that night and correct the record on my personal blog. He was taken out of context as part of a bigger conversation. It is the reporters job to convey the 'story' not some cherry picked quotes to drive ratings. The user loses in that situation.

http://podtech.wordpress.com
Posted By John Furrier, Palo Alto, CA : 12:35 PM  

Hey, it got ME to read that article!
Posted By Adam, Salt Lake City, UT : 4:24 PM  

Oh yeah, and didn't I just see another article about how the Web is now officially 1% porn? I think that justifies the representation that both Watkins and the Fortune blogger made.
Posted By Adam, Salt Lake City, UT : 4:26 PM  

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.