Harvard Business Review says Jobs is top-performing CEO

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Mac fans like to sing the praises of Steve Jobs for all he’s done for Apple, especially after he returned in 1997 to the company he co-founded. And now, academia has your back.

The January-February 2010 issue of Harvard Business Review contains a feature article on the best performing CEOs in the world. And Apple’s chief tops the list of the nearly 2,000 executives included in the study.

The article, co-authored by UC Berkeley management professor Morten T. Hansen, Insead organizational behavior professor Herminia Ibarra, and Insead associate professor of finance Urs Peyer, looks at how companies performed during a CEO’s full tenure. The authors looked at CEOs of all publicly traded companies in Standard & Poor’s Global 1200 or BRIC 40 lists since 1997, including those who had been on the job no earlier than January 1995 and no later than December 2007. That left the authors with 1,999 CEOs to rank.

We looked at the list of 1,999 executives and asked, Who led firms that, on the basis of stock returns, outperformed other firms in the same country and industry? Our ranking combines three measures: country-adjusted return, industry-adjusted return, and change in market capitalization during tenure. Of course, shareholder return is not the only measure of performance, and it omits contributions companies make to a wide group of stakeholders. But it is the fundamental scorecard for CEOs of public companies. And it’s the same scorecard for everyone.

That put Steve Jobs firmly at the top of the list, for bringing a 3,188-percent industry-adjusted return after coming back to Apple a dozen years ago. From Jobs’ return to September 2009, the study’s authors write, Apple’s market value increased by $150 billion. Rounding out the top five were Yung Jong-Yong of Samsung, Gazprom’s Alexey B. Miller, John Chamber of Cisco Systems, and Reliance Industries’ Mukesh D. Ambani. Google CEO—and one-time Apple board member—Eric Schmidt placed ninth in the study.

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