There are countless examples throughout history of forward-thinking CEOs transforming mediocre businesses into global powerhouses. The visionary leadership of Steve Jobs, for example, helped make Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) one of the most valuable companies in the world. In fact, Apple's annual sales tripled and its stock price increased more than 1,300% following Steve Jobs' return to the company in 1996.
Today, founders and CEOs including Amazon.com's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Jeff Bezos, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Larry Page, and Under Armour (NYSE:UAA) Kevin Plank are blazing their own trails and creating long-term value for their respective companies in the process. Below, three Motley Fool contributing analysts explain why they are giving their hard earned cash to these top CEO's.
Tamara Walsh: There are many reasons why I believe Jeff Bezos of Amazon deserves my investment dollars, but none more so than his long view approach to achieving business success. Too often, the CEOs of public companies bend to meet short-term goals laid out by analysts and shareholders. This is often the case because most chief executive's compensation plans are closely tied to quarterly earnings results and annual performance metrics. Not Bezos.
Since founding Amazon in 1995, Bezos has proven he isn't afraid to sacrifice near-term profits for long-term growth -- a trait shared by Apple's former founder. Bezos has since grown the company from a modest online seller of books into the world's top online retailer. With Bezos at the helm, the company continues to expand into new categories such as cloud-computing and online video streaming.
He's also created a unique corporate culture at Amazon that keeps the focus on the company's humble roots. Bezos still attaches a copy of the original 1997 shareholder letter to each annual report management files, and he insists the company's vision remains the same: "It's still Day 1."
Nevertheless, Amazon's gotten a lot of criticism for its weak profits lately. However, Bezos is playing the long game and investors should too. After all, his visionary leadership has led the company to achieve industry-adjusted shareholder returns north of 12,000%. For these reasons, I would happily give my money to Jeff Bezos in hopes of another decade of outsized growth in Amazon stock.
Brian Stoffel: The longer I've been an investor, the more closely I've looked for things that don't show up on a financial statement. Chief among them is the quality of leadership. In Larry Page of Google, I think we have one of the most solid leaders of our era. That's why shares of the company make up 8% of my real-life portfolio.
When, in 2012, the company announced its plans to create C-class shares with no voting power, some cried foul, as shareholder rights were being eroded. I, on the other hand, looked kindly upon the move. Co-founders Page and Sergey Brin have an uber-long-term time horizon when it comes to Google, and one of its mottos is simple: Don't be evil.
Employees will tell you that the motto is more than lip service -- it's taken seriously. But what would happen if Page and Brin lost control of the company? Currently, they own about 55% of the voting rights. If they continued to offer Class A shares to employees as compensation, that tight control would have slowly eroded.
In the end, Page has shown that he possesses the vision to continue pushing Google to morph in new an unpredictable ways. And he can count on Brin -- who is leading the company's GoogleX project, which focuses on major technological advances -- to deliver the goods. With both men only clocking in at 41 years old, I plan to buy and hold even more shares as time continues -- so long as these two are at the helm.
Joe Tenebruso: At Tier 1 Investments, a Motley Fool Real-Money Portfolio, I seek out and invest in elite businesses. These include companies with the strongest competitive advantages, largest growth opportunities, and importantly -- the best management. Under Armour has been my best recommendation to date -- rising 165% since November 2012 -- and its founder and CEO Kevin Plank is one of my most-trusted business leaders.
Plank founded Under Armour in the basement of his grandmother's house in 1996. The business began as an idea he had for a shirt that would remain drier and lighter than the sweat-soaked cotton undershirts he would have to repeatedly change out of during games as a player on the University of Maryland football team. The tenacious walk-on-turned-special-teams captain eventually created a moisture-wicking prototype of what would become Under Armour's signature compression gear and began selling shirts out of the back of his truck. Over the next two decades, Plank would go on to build Under Armour into a business with nearly $3 billion in sales and a $15 billion market cap. Now 42, Plank still owns more than 18% of the business, helping him to amass a net worth of more than $2.8 billion.
But rather than ride off into the sunset, Plank remains fully involved in overseeing Under Armour's operations as CEO and chairman of the board. He maintains a laser-like focus on building Under Armour into the dominant global-performance athletic-apparel brand and instilling a humble and hungry attitude among his "teammates." He has been described as an inspiring visionary who is as passionate about his business today as when he first created it nearly two decades ago. That's exactly the type of leader I like to see at the helm of a Tier 1 enterprise.