Every year around this time Sydney Finkelstein, professor of management and an associate dean at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, produces his list of the Worst CEOs of the year. For the first time this year he's also adding a best list.
Related: The Worst CEOs of 2013
On Finkelstein's best CEO list: Jeff Bezos of Amazon (AMZN); Pony Ma of Tencent (TCEHY), John Idol of Michael Kors (KORS), Reed Hastings of Netflix (NFLX) and Akio Toyoda of Toyota (TM). He explains his picks in the video above and highlights below, and we've added some of our own analysis as well.
Bezos, Ma and Hastings have several traits in common: they all founded the companies they still head and their companies are Internet-based.
Bezos is "the magic man, the new Steve Jobs," says Finkelstein, referring to Apple's visionary founder. He says Bezos does whatever it takes to win: "an unbelievable focus on customers...[and] nonstop innovation" which has created a "big cloud business ... [and] the plumbing for ecommerce."
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Those innovations could mean that Amazon "doesn't even have to make money selling books and a million other things," says Finkelstein though he suggests the companies move into fashion--"an industry ripe for disruption" could be big for Amazon. Fashion houses "are all trying to make ecommerce work, and there's no one better at it than Amazon," says Finkelstein. Indeed Amazon acquired Zappos, the online shoe seller, in 2009 and last year opened a large-scale fashion photo studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Since Amazon went public in mid May 1997, its stock price has increased by more than 220-fold.
Reed Hastings, was on Finkelstein's worst CEO two years ago following the company's decision to separate its DVD-by-mail business from Internet streaming and raise subscription prices. Subscribers screamed and the stock plummeted, reducing the company's market cap by more than $9 billion.
Then Reed reversed his decision, the stock rebounded--it's up almost 300% in the past year---and Netflix added original programming. It even made history at the 2013 Emmys as the first non-TV network to win an award--for David Fincher, director of its original program "House of Cards."
"I, like many others probably underestimated him," says Finkelstein, about Hastings. "Reed Hastings is one of those post-modern CEOs that has really figured out how to create an Internet company, how to energize people ... kind of a Jeff Bezos strategy ... nonstop innovation on every type of thing." And, says Finkelstein, Hastings has humility--"one of the best signs you can possibly look for" in a CEO.
Netflix stock is up 47-fold since it went public in May 2002 and has more than doubled in price since it reversed its Qwikstart subscription decision.
CEO, Michael Kors
Another "post-modern leader" on Finkelstein's best list: John Idol, CEO of Michael Kors, who's credited with a hugely successful IPO. Shares have quadrupled in price since the IPO in late 2011.
Idol converted the "struggling company [of a] "fashion genius" into one that's makes moneym with stores opening up all over the world, says Finkelstein. He's a "world class manager" who uses "world class marketing techniques and best management techniques."
Finkelstein says he looked globally to compile his list of the best CEOs for 2013 and found "as soon as you start to look you really see how much talent there is in other places."
Among his top CEO picks outside the U.S. is Pony Ma, who heads Tencent, China's largest Internet company, often ranked third largest in the world after Amazon and Google. Its valuation tops $100 billion and its "WeChat platform has the potential to go global," says Finkelstein. The growing popularity of WeChat has made Ma a billionaire and the second richest man in China, according to Bloomberg.
Finkelstein credits Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota, with leading the automaker's recovery from several disasters: the PR mishandling of sudden acceleration complaints in 2009 and the supply disruption caused by the Japanese tsunami in March 2011. By the first half of 2013 it was once again the world's largest automaker--a title it lost in 2011.
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