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Harvard Business Review names the 100 best-performing CEOs in the world

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Harvard Business Review names the 100 best-performing CEOs in the world

To some he's an innovator, to others a bully, and now Jeff Bezos has a new label: the world's best-performing CEO.

Jeff Bezos topped Harvard Business Review's 2014 ranking of the 100 best-performing CEOs. The list, which appears in the November issue of the magazine, offers the only ranking of global CEOs' performance over their entire tenure.

"We wanted to recognize CEOs who are building value and delivering results year after year – not just in the short term." 

"We wanted to recognize CEOs who are building value and delivering results year after year – not just in the short term," said Adi Ignatius, Editor in Chief of Harvard Business Review. "We approached the task scientifically, basing the ranking on hard data, not on reputation or anecdote."

Among the findings:

  • Amazon's Jeff Bezos is the world's best-performing CEO. During his tenure, Amazon delivered industry-adjusted shareholder returns of 15,189% and saw its value increase by $140 billion. (For more, read "The Numbers in Jeff Bezos's Head.")
  • American CEOs earn more. According to compensation analysis firm Equilar, the median pay for U.S. CEOs on the list is $12.1 million, compared with $6.4 million for non-U.S. CEOs for whom HBR obtained data. The CEO on the list with the highest total compensation is Walt Disney's Robert Iger, with a package of $34.3 million.
  • The top 100 CEOs outearn their peers in every category, including salary, bonus, equity, awards, and options. On average, the U.S. CEOs on the list earn 20% more than S&P 500 CEOs.
  • Twenty-four of the CEOs on the list have undergraduate or graduate degrees in engineering, and 29 have MBAs. Eight CEOs have both degrees. (See "Why Engineers Make Great Leaders.") 
  • The highest-ranked woman is Ventas CEO Debra Cafaro, who holds the #27 spot. Cafaro is only one of two women who made the top 100, the other being Carol Meyrowitz, CEO of TJX at #51.
  • Thirteen CEOs are of nationalities that differ from their companies' – a figure that's more than double what it was in the 2013 version of the ranking.

Recognizing that being a good CEO is about far more than just investment performance, HBR asked the Reputation Institute to rank the top 100 CEOs on skills such as work environment, citizenship, governance, and leadership. The top three CEOs whose companies had the best reputation scores are Martin Winterkorn of Volkswagen, Lars Sorensen of Novo Nordisk, and Nick Hayek Jr. of Swatch.

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