This is a small start-up (~5 employees, including 3 founders) in software development, Europe. One of the founders was self-assigned the CEO role and got biggest equity chunk, and we accepted because of his tremendous persuasive skills to get grants and support for our project. I was in charge of product development.
Over the years (~4 years) the CEO subtly and gradually stopped contributing: he stopped searching for grants, looking for investment, pitching our idea or products to potential customers, managing the employees, guiding product development, having a corporate vision and goals. He delegated all those tasks on me and the other board member. We would subsequently accept because this was a very slow and nuanced process. We didn't realize what was happening. We would de facto create a sort of parallel in-company structure where the productive board members would communicate among themselves and with the partners/suppliers/customers, take everyday internal decisions and make things work despite the incompetence of the CEO.
From the perspective of the CEO things are working and he claims all that as his merit. He deploys tactics of gaslighting to sow confusion, denial, misdirection and low self-esteem on us every time we want to know what he is exactly contributing to the company. He even uses subtle forms of intimidation and blackmail referencing supposedly huge workloads and sacrifices he's endured for the company, when in fact the rest of employees have much bigger workloads as a result of the situation.
His best tactic is endless meetings and e-mails: at the very first hint that we doubt about or question him, he makes us waste hours on meetings or book-length e-mails about a well-crafted successful CEO narrative which is actually full of lies, falsehoods and mansplaining. Though, we end up agreeing or letting it go because there's no way the conversation would stop and we don't want to waste more precious working time for which we are not particularly plentiful.
He has this ability of twisting facts and reality to his interests and presenting himself as a victim, when he's actually an abuser. Maybe you relate to this situation, it's never black-and-white and extremely hard to address. Unfortunately we have no mechanism in place to hold him accountable for his output.
I would like to stop this situation, expel the CEO and get rid of him from the board and get back his shares for the company. I'm not sure if this should be addressed internally among us (can the board remove the CEO and expel him from the board if there's a majority against him?), or if I should seek legal assistance (the presence of a lawyer or mediator), for which I'm scared he would strike back and go to court with potentially high costs. I'm also scared personally as this sort of psychological manipulation is hard to get through, but hopefully I'll find a solution for that.