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The Best CEO You Maybe Have Never Heard Of

By Motley Fool Staff – Updated Apr 10, 2018 at 2:00PM

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These CEOs fly under the radar for many investors.

It's Answers' third annual Loofie Awards! Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp are joined in the studio by Matt Argersinger, Aaron Bush, and Tim Hanson to highlight their picks and pans in the investing arena.

Not every CEO is an Elon Musk type. In this segment, Matt picks Richard Liu, CEO of JD.com, as the most unheralded CEO, while Tim nominates Kent Taylor of Texas Roadhouse, and Aaron suggests Marcos Galperin of MercadoLibre. Who wins the Loofie for Best CEO You Maybe Have Never Heard Of?

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on April 3, 2018.

Alison Southwick: And now we're going to bring everyone back onstage to award the Loofie for Best CEO You Maybe Have Never Heard Of. Each one of our guest presenters has a CEO that they would like to put up for nomination and then I guess we'll rock, paper, and scissors.

Matt Argersinger: Why don't we pitch it and you and Robert pick it.

Southwick: All right, let's do it. Again, the whole episode is like...

Tim Hanson: I like the methodology.

Southwick: It's a plane. We're building the plane while we're flying it, here. Matt, would you like to go first?

Argersinger: Sure. My nominee is the most unheralded CEO. A great CEO no one knows about. My CEO is Richard Liu. He is the CEO of JD.com, which if you don't know, it's the second-largest e-commerce company in China. A lot of people don't pay attention to JD because Alibaba is the big juggernaut of China and everyone thinks they're going to gobble up the world, and they kind of are.

But JD has built a really nice retail business. They're the No. 1 retailer in China direct-to-consumer. They've also built this distribution system that's very much like Amazon. It spans all of China. They can get goods to you within two days pretty much everywhere, including same day in big cities.

This is a guy who essentially ran a small electronics shop in the early 2000s, transitioned it online and then built this e-commerce powerhouse that now does about $50 billion in revenue a year. He's my nominee. He owns 17% of the stock and he's much less exciting than Jack Ma, who's now starring in Kung Fu movies, I've heard. He's a guy you can trust, and I would certainly nominate him as my CEO of the year for 2017.

Southwick: Tim?

Hanson: My nominee is Kent Taylor, who's the chief executive officer of Texas Roadhouse, which for people who haven't been there is a chain of fast casual, sit-down steakhouse-type restaurants known for its cocktails and country singing. The steaks are supposedly pretty good, too.

What impresses me about Taylor is the fact that it's been a pretty rough go for the restaurant business over the past five to 10 years. We've seen high-profile highfliers come down to Earth like Chipotle and people struggling with declining mall traffic and more people getting delivery at home; yet, Texas Roadhouse just finished an eighth consecutive year of same-store sales growth.

They're really highly rated on Glassdoor as one of the best places to work and definitely one of the best restaurants to work at. I think that combination of outstanding performance in a tough industry [and it's been a great stock for investors, as well] is what sets Taylor apart as a lesser-known but really great CEO.

Southwick: Aaron?

Aaron Bush: My nomination is for Marcos Galperin, who is the CEO of MercadoLibre, which is essentially the Amazon or eBay of Latin America, so maybe a little bit of competition, there, with JD.

What he's done is incredibly impressive. They were founded in 1999 and they went public, I think, in 2007. Since then the market has about doubled, but they're up about 10X. And given the fact of how volatile Venezuela, Brazil, and all the different nations in Latin America have been, off and on over the past decade, for them to create this kind of performance and dominate e-commerce in Latin America I think is incredibly impressive, and it's largely because of him.

Robert Brokamp: Wow, that's a tough one!

Southwick: It's tough.

Brokamp: If the category is Unsung CEO or CEO People Haven't Heard Of, I have to go with Richard Liu.

Argersinger: Richard Liu.

Brokamp: I was more familiar with the other companies -- the other two -- but I was not as familiar with Richard Liu.

Southwick: I'll back that. I'm good with that. Also, if you say anything like the "anything of China," I'm going to be like, "Tell me more!"

Argersinger: That's usually a cop-out for weaker analysis, but yeah. Yes, I appreciate that. It is kind of the Amazon of China. I'll take it. JD.com.

Southwick: All right, so the winner of the last Loofie, as we leap across the line is Richard Liu, founder and CEO of JD.com. -- Yay! Woo hoo! Applause. -- Fun fact about the name.

Argersinger: Oh, yes. I should have mentioned this in the pitch. Apparently, he named his company JD. I don't know how to pronounce it, but it's named after his high school girlfriend who dumped him. So, they're not together but, apparently, he decided to name his company after her, anyway.

Southwick: So, when you wrote me this note, I thought he named it JD for "just dumped." But then I was like, "This is in Chinese, so that doesn't make any sense."

Argersinger: No, it's her name, but I don't know what it is.

Southwick: I was very confused for a little bit, but now we're good.

Aaron Bush owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill, JD.com, and MercadoLibre. Alison Southwick has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Matthew Argersinger owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill, JD.com, and MercadoLibre and has the following options: short May 2018 $42 puts on JD.com, long January 2020 $50 calls on JD.com, and short January 2020 $50 puts on JD.com. Robert Brokamp, CFP has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Tim Hanson has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Chipotle Mexican Grill, eBay, JD.com, MercadoLibre, and Texas Roadhouse. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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