Johnson & Johnson
CEO since 1989
Johnson & Johnson continues to prosper by flying in the face of conventional wisdom. While many competitors dumped other businesses to focus on drugs, J&J argues that diversification is an asset. The drug operation has been the major growth engine as products like anemia drug Procrit haul in big gains. That's why net income rose an average of 22.4% annually over three years. Investors were rewarded with 26.8% return on J&J stock over the past year. But as drug competition heats up, medical devices are expected to make a bigger contribution to New Brunswick, N.J.-based J&J. At least that's the hope of William C. Weldon, 53, who takes over as CEO in April.
Leland C. Brendsel, 59
CEO since 1987
Amid its greatest success, Freddie Mac has become a target of harsh criticism. Thanks to an implicit government guarantee of repayment, Freddie and sister Fannie Mae borrow money cheaply. They use it to buy securitized mortgages that banks create to their specifications, and make money from the interest from those securities. With a booming housing market, McLean, VA-based Freddie's portfolio grew by 27% last year, and net income jumped 72%. Critics say ballooning volume puts the U.S. at risk of a bailout if home prices collapse. But with defaults at just 0.007% of Freddie's portfolio, and Brendsel using conservative hedging, problems seem remote.