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Working Hard for the Money?

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Working Hard for the Money?

People who changed our lives but died penniless - and some who got sweetheart deals for not doing a whole lot.

Gary Kildall

Nearly 10 years before Bill Gates' deal with IBM for MS-DOS, Kildall developed the first operating system for personal computers. No doubt, the Age of the Computer has changed the way the world works. Kildall died after a skirmish at a bar in Washington state.

Nikola Tesla

The Serbian-American inventor was a key innovator in the use of electricity and developing the AC electrical supply system. His patents and theories also formed the basis of wireless communication and radio. He had more than 700 patents to his name, yet spent his last years feeding pigeons outside New York's public library.

Charles Goodyear

An accidental discovery eventually led Goodyear to the formula for vulcanizing rubber, a process that revolutionized transportation around the world. But Goodyear unwisely allowed his invention to be taken by a rival. About four decades after his death, the Goodyear Tire Co. was named in his honor.

Robert Kearns

What's now standard equipment on vehicles, Kearns' intermittent windshield wipers, were the subject of lawsuits against a series of automakers. Kearns settled with Ford and won a suit against Chrysler. But he lost his cases against General Motors and foreign automakers; the legal battles dragged on so long that Kearns' attorneys saw the biggest benefit.

Eli Whitney

Though Whitney is credited with inventing the cotton gin, which forever changed the textile industry, the invention was so simple that Whitney's patent was impossible to enforce. The bulk of Whitney's life was spent trying to pursue patent infringement lawsuits.

Charles Tillinghast Jr.

Tillinghast is generally credited as the first golden parachute recipient, he never actually opened his chute from TWA. But when Tillinghast became chairman of the airline in 1961, his contract included a clause that would provide him his money even if he lost his job.

Angelo Mozilo

Mozilo testified before Congress about the subprime mortgage crisis, and when Bank of America bought the struggling Countrywide, Mozilo (as CEO) took home about $44 million on top of the $140 million in Countrywide stock he sold during 2006-07, the start of the subprime bubble bursting.

Michael Ovitz

When the one-time super-agent Ovitz became Disney's president in 1995, his contract came with a $130 million severance package if he should be fired; he was, taking the millions with him. Disney shareholders filed suit, demanding the money back. That case dragged on until 2006, when the Delaware Supreme Court ruled for Ovitz.

Carly Fiorina

Hewlett-Packard's fortunes under Fiorina's guidance weren't bright; value declined, the company made major layoffs, and its merger with Compaq was largely unsuccessful. For her services, Fiorina got almost $40 million in cash, stock and benefits. A subsequent U.S. Senate campaign was a failure.

Henry McKinnell

McKinnell's tenure as Pfizer's CEO included a controversial 72 percent raise in 2005. When he departed the company in 2006, he managed to take home an $83 million pension payment, despite the stock dropping 46 percent.