Meet the best-performing CEOs in the world – including this South African

Harvard Business Review has published its list of the 100 best-performing chief executives in the world for 2017, based on how much value they add to a company during their tenure.

South African-born Mark Bristow, the long-serving CEO of Randgold Resources, again features on the list, although he slides down the rankings after a stellar year in 2016, guiding the company through a difficult period for resource related companies.

Estcourt born Bristow has held the position of CEO since 1995 when he co-founded the company. He drops down to 64th in 2017, from 23rd a year ago. Bristow graduated from the University of Natal with BSc and PhD degrees in Geology.

Randgold Resources said in a quarterly report in August that it managed to to achieve its guidance for 2017 with Q2 profit of $102.8 million up 21% on the previous quarter and the half-year profit of $187.7 million up 53% on the corresponding period in 2016.

Production of 341,316 ounces for the quarter and 663,786 ounces for the half year were 6% and 16% higher respectively, while total cash cost per ounce of $572 for the quarter and $595 for the half-year were down 8% and 13%.

Earnings per share of $0.89 for the quarter and $1.64 for the half-year were up 20% and 49%, the company said.

Top CEOs

The top performer for 2017 is Pablo Isla of Inditex, the parent of the retail fashion chains Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho, and Uterqüe and of the housewares retailer Zara Home.

Harvard Business Review said that since becoming CEO, in 2005, Isla has led Inditex on a global expansion during which the company has opened, on average, one store a day. “That growth has increased its market value sevenfold and made it Spain’s most valuable company.

HBR said that the power of momentum is evident in its 2017 ranking as the list is remarkably consistent with last year’s tally. Two of this year’s top three CEOs were among the top three leaders in 2016, and 16 of the top 25 were in the top quartile.

Seventy-two of last year’s 100 leaders are repeats, and 23 are appearing for the fourth straight year, the report said. Of the 28 CEOs who fell off the list after last year, 11 retired from their companies. Most of the rest, including the CEOs of Heineken and Vodafone, dropped off because of a significant decline in stock price, it said.

On average, these 100 CEOs generated a 2,507% return on stock (adjusted for exchange-rate effects) during a 17-year tenure, for a 21% average annual return, the report said.

HBR said that 20 of the CEOs lead companies based outside their countries of birth. On average, they became CEO at age 44 and have been in office 17 years – 29 have an MBA, and 32 have an engineering degree.

If judged solely on the basis of financial performance – the top-ranked leader would be Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, who topped the list in 2014 and has been the best financial performer in every subsequent year.

The top performing CEOs in the world

Rank Name Company Industry
1 Pablo Isla
Inditex Retail
2 Martin Sorrell WPP Consumer Services
3 Jen-Hsun Huang Nvidia Information Technology
4 Jacques Aschenbrioch Valeo Automobile
5 Bernard Arnault LVMH Consumer Goods
6 Martin Bouygues
Bouygues Telecoms
7 Johan Thijs
KBC Banking
8 Mark Parker Nike Sports apparel
9 Elmar Degenhart Continental Automobile
10 Florentino Perez Rodriguez ACS Construction
64 Mark Bristow Randgold Resources Materials

To compile its list of the world’s best-performing CEOs, the Harvard Business Review began with the companies that at the end of 2016 were in the S&P Global 1200, an index that reflects 70% of the world’s stock market capitalization and includes firms in North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Australia.

It excluded executives who had been in the job for less than two years, along with those who have convicted of a crime or arrested. “All told, we ended up with 898 CEOs from 887 companies. (Several companies had co-CEOs.) They ran enterprises based in 31 countries,” it said.

It then ranked each CEO—from 1 (best) to 898 (worst)—on each financial metric and averaged the three rankings to obtain an overall financial rank.

You can see the full ranking here


Read: What South Africa’s top CEOs have in common

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Meet the best-performing CEOs in the world – including this South African