Harvard Business Review Names Leading CEOs — Bezos Doesn’t Make the Cut

Rosemary Feitelberg

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MAKING THE GRADE: Nvidia’s cofounder Jensen Huang took top honors for the Harvard Business Review’s 2019 “Best-Performing CEOs in the World,” but numerous captains of industry in fashion, retail and beauty had strong showings.

Kering’s Francois-Henri Pinault led the fashion pack, finishing third on the list, with his fellow Frenchman Bernard Arnault of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton was next in line among the fashion crowd at 10th. Like many of this year’s finalists, the two European luxury houses share a competitive spirit. Pinault finished fourth last year and Arnault was third.

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This year’s field was at an advantage since last year’s number-one performer — Inditex’s Pablo Isla — switches roles from chief executive officer to chairman, a move that knocked him out-of-the-running for this year’s list. Indicative of the focus on “objective performance measures over a ceo’s entire tenure,” 65 of this year’s Top 100 were also on last year’s list.

For the past four years, the rankings have been tallied based on financial performances as well as environmental, social and governance ratings. One change in the criteria involved increasing the ESG scores of each ceo to 30 percent from 20 percent. As purposefulness gains ground with business leaders, so too must the list’s criteria. Upping the ESG factor meant that Amazon’s ceo Jeff Bezos didn’t rank in this year’s list, despite having been 68th on last year’s list. Amazon’s ESG scores were lacking due to risks created by working conditions, employment policies, data security and antitrust issues, according to analysis by Sustainalytics, one of the two ESG data firms that helped HBR cull the findings.

L’Oréal’s Jean-Paul Agon finished 19th, and he was followed by Nike’s Mark Parker at 20th. (Nike announced Tuesday that Parker will become executive chairman, and John Donahoe II, an executive board member, will become president and ceo on Jan. 13.) Givaudan’s Gilles Andrier ranked 30th and another beauty leader, Fabrizio Freda of The Estee Lauder Cos. Inc,, locked in the 39th position. One of the early believers in the ath-leisure trend, Glenn Chamandy, who joined Gildan Activewear in 2004, ranked 49th; Shisheido’s Masahiko Uotani secured the 52nd slot, and another well-established Japanese c-suite-er, Fast Retailing’s Tadashi Yanai, finished 54th. The Uniqlo creator is also the second most seasoned executive on the Top 100 list, having started the company in 1984. Ninety-sixth-ranked SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son was first for seniority, having started at the Japanese company n 1981. Tencent’s Ma Huateng was 63rd (right below Apple’s Tim Cook at 62). Simon Property’s David Simon ranked 67th and another retail-minded finisher was Next’s Simon Wolfson at 78th.

One area that is lacking is the representation of female executives. Of the 876 companies whose ceo’s were eligible for the list only 34 — or 4 percent — were women, according to a HBR spokeswoman. Wolters Kluwer’s Nancy McKinstry at 16; Advanced Micro Devices Lisa Su at 26; Ventas’ Debra Cafaro at 29, and Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson at 37 made the cut — one more than last year’s total of three female executives.

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