MBAs Who Become CEOs

Posted by: Francesca Di Meglio on April 21, 2010

Recently, Bloomberg BusinessWeek asked top business schools in the U.S. and abroad to share data about CEO MBAs. Specifically, the schools tried to determine the number of former and current CEOs who had graduated from their MBA programs between 1979 and 2009, the total number of alumni for that period, and the list of names of those CEOs. The goal was to write an analysis of the findings and stoke the ongoing debates about whether an MBA is necessary to become CEO and if the degree is useful and relevant.

Alas, however, this story could never be. Many of the business schools had trouble gathering and providing the information. The first major obstacle was that alumni self report their whereabouts and achievements to their alma mater. Not everyone keeps in touch and there’s no mechanism for the schools to be sure they’ve counted every CEO to come out of their graduating classes. Also, some schools had a rough idea of the number and names of current CEOs but not former ones. For other bigger programs, the sheer size of the alumni network made the project far too daunting and time consuming for their limited resources. Sharing names of CEO alumni was a problem, too, because many schools (or the countries in which the schools reside) have strict rules about privacy.

Despite the challenges, 15 of the 40 business schools contacted managed to send us some data, and a handful of others provided names of the more prominent CEOs. Now that you’ve read this, you should understand that the data wasn’t feasible for a story because it’s most likely incomplete, not at all scientific, and too few schools participated for it to have any meaning. But that doesn’t mean we won’t share any of our reporting with you.

For kicks, you might like to know that, of the participating schools, Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business (Tuck Full-Time MBA Profile), University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business (Darden Full-Time MBA Profile) and London Business School (London Full-Time MBA Profile) appear to have the highest percentage of MBA grads who became CEOs between 1979 and 2009. You should note that Tuck included other titles, such as vice chairman, in its count. University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business (Ross Full-Time MBA Profile), Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business (Mendoza Full-Time MBA Profile), and University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business (Smith Full-Time MBA Profile) appear to have the least. Truly, the numbers are meaningless because while the number of graduates the schools provided is correct, the number of CEOs is probably fewer than it should be for each program because it is all self reported by alumni.

On the other hand, if quality beats quantity, then the lists of CEOs are more impressive than the data anyway. For example, the Haas School of Business (Haas Full-Time MBA Profile) at UC-Berkeley does not track past titles, but a very short list of current CEOs included Shantanu Narayen (Class of 1993), who is the president and CEO of Adobe Systems (ADBE). Apparently, the Class of 1980 at Indiana’s Kelley School of Business (Kelley Full-Time MBA Profile) had a sweet tooth because its alumni include Brad Alford, chairman and CEO of Nestle USA (NESN), and Maggy Siegel, president and COO of Dylan’s Candy Bar.

The lists of CEOs go on and on. Name dropping never gets old, does it? But seriously, do you think you need an MBA to earn the CEO title? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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Reader Comments


April 27, 2010 03:53 PM

I'm planning to get an MBA education soon. The reason is because undergrad/grad becomes non-sufficient when we talk about enterprise management because you need to have knowledge on many different areas like best talent hiring, product/service innovation & differentiation, strategic planning, risk management, employee motivation and lead, etc. Even if people can read and learn about these areas themselves, mba provides opportunity to take them into practice while you become part of a valuable business network.

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