The Best Tech CEOs

Barron's just published the 2010 edition of its 30 most-respected CEOs list, and this one warms a cold tech investor's heart.

New faces
You'll find Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) CEO Reed Hastings and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) leader Larry Ellison among the 11 brand-new honorees.

Hastings is introduced as "not an obvious member of our elite group" who constantly defies doubters and short-sellers while building a next-generation movie rental empire.

Ellison is the consummate showman and a deft wrangler of big-ticket tech mergers. Barron's also points out the Oracle CEO's long history of yacht sailing, and how he served on the reigning America's Cup champion crew. That doesn't necessarily make him a better business manager, but it does show a diversity of talents, and that can't hurt.

Old hands
Nearly one-third of the 19 CEOs returning to the list from last year hail from high tech and should sound very familiar to most investors:

  • Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) helmsman Steve Jobs is presented as "the world's most valuable CEO," with an estimated market-cap impact of at least $25 billion.
  • Mark Hurd of Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) and John Chambers of Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) are tagged as "consummate managers," guiding their respective industry giants through some rocky times and tough competition.
  • IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) CEO Sam Palmisano and Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) founder Jeff Bezos get a nod without as much as an explanation. Bezos joined the Barron's list last year because he is "writing the book on retailing," while Palmisano is a longtime resident of these lists.

Why you should care
Barron's
notes that a portfolio of these 30 stocks would have nearly doubled the S&P 500's performance over the past 12 months. Since the magazine gets to cherry-pick people and companies based on past stock performance, which is one of the selection criteria, that statistic should come as no surprise.

These leaders are not tenured by any means -- nor should they be. As impressive as Ellison's and Chambers' resumes and talents are, I've been highly critical of some of their big, bold moves recently. If Oracle's buyout of Sun Microsystems doesn't pan out, Ellison could be left fixing a tangled mess of unfamiliar operations and clashing corporate cultures. And Cisco may have turned some of its finest partners into head-to-head enemies with a move into server hardware. That's another potential disaster waiting to happen. Rest on your laurels with one eye open, gentlemen.

So while the leaders of high technology are flying high today, let's wait a couple of years to see if the bold moves of today actually pay off. That's enough from me though, who is your favorite CEO, dear Fool? Let the love letters flow in the comments section below! (Hey, that rhymes.)

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Netflix and is a longtime fan of Reed Hastings, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Apple, Amazon.com, and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Fool owns shares of Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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  • Report this Comment On March 29, 2010, at 3:03 PM, demodave wrote:

    Steve Jobs. I'm an Apple fanboi and hold a long position because I have been using and loving their products for decades. And as we can see from the last ten years, the company doesn't just know how to make fantastic gadgets: it also knows how to market them and create very powerful strategic partnerships to push it business further and further ahead.

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