Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to determine how the media constructs images of infamous chief executive officers (CEOs) through the use of recurring themes, terms and phrases in the popular press. Design/methodology/approach – This research conducts content analyses of secondary data from three popular press business sources over a two-year period to identify the journalistic construction of 12 infamous CEOs. Findings – The findings reveal 18 themes and eight categories of images constructed by the media, an integrated framework of CEO infamy as constructed by the media and a definition of CEO infamy. Originality/value – To date, little research has focused solely on the media's construction of the infamous CEO. This paper also begins to bridge positive and negative CEO celebrity concepts.