Magazine

In Search of the Good CEO


Great story--and overdue ("The good CEO," Cover Story, Sept. 23)! If only more of the CEOs of our largest companies had the guts to manage the way these six do rather than cave in to the "demands" of short-term thinkers in the investment community.

How great it is to grow companies over time rather than preside over huge layoffs because you don't care about your human assets. It takes guts--and concerns about people--not just numbers.

J.R. Gordon

Atlanta

One point that does not come out in your story is the hundreds upon hundreds of men and women who serve as CEOs of small and midsize businesses who reflect the same values and commitment to success as your six corporate heroes. Please consider giving a nod to the little guy a bit more often.

But hey, this time, a home run; next time, a grand slam. Nice work.

David Neuger

Northfield, Minn.

I am pleased to see BusinessWeek provide examples of successful CEOs who emphasize growing and nurturing a business, the value of employees, and a willingness to make sacrifices. But it was disheartening to see the comment by Bill Dreher of WR Hambrecht & Co., on CEO James D. Sinegal's approach to the "markup ceiling" at Costco Wholesale Corp. Dreher says: "We believe [it] places club member interests too far ahead of shareholder interests."

This comment emphasizes the greedy attitude that has given business a bad reputation. If Sinegal is maintaining a profitable company (shareholder value), paying his employees (a business' most valuable asset) well, and satisfying his customers (the key to profit), he should keep doing what he's doing. Shareholders and Wall Street should remember the most important thing about business: Without customers, they would all be penniless!

Andrew Biar

Houston

As I read your story, what struck me was that your good CEOs are all middle-aged, white American men. Where are the successful, widely admired female CEOs? Where are the effective, creative African American CEOs? Come on, BusinessWeek. Dig deeper and look harder. Select a group of leaders who represent our nation and who are leading Corporate America into the future with enthusiasm, teamwork, innovation, and plain old hard work.

Julie Richman

Colorado Springs, Colo.

The profile of the man on "The good CEO" cover doesn't appear to resemble any of the featured six men. Is the problem with my eyes, or am I correct?

Evelyn D. Bryant

Leavenworth, Kan.

Editor's note: You are correct.

While I don't know the other CEOs you featured, I do know James Morgan of Applied Materials Inc., and I can attest to the fact that he is a good person, and perhaps a giant in the evidently small fraternity of "good CEOs."

Al Shugart

Chairman, President, and CEO

Al Shugart International

Santa Cruz, Calif.

Your "good CEOs" fail in one important respect: their pay. By this criterion, they are right up there feeding out of the same trough that has grown so absurdly over the past 25 years, during which time a new breed of executive consultants-for-hire has taken over as advisers on what the CEOs who hire them should be paid.

A.F. Kaulakis

New York

Your article on not-so-famous CEOs showed that there exist a "few good men" who [demonstrate] that the enterprise will take care of them if they take care of it. With a quick glance at their profiles, a few similarities are visible: All had a good education, all started small and made their way up to the top, and all seem to have stable family lives as well.

It's good to read about those who, while keeping a low public profile, put efforts toward creating value for those who place trust in them.

Namieta Agarwal

Jakarta

"The good CEO" comes at the right moment. We need to celebrate business leaders with long stories of passion and devotion to their companies and community and not just to themselves. I would like to see another article with more examples of their "best practices" and the management values they share.

Luis Pascoal

Campinas, Brazil

BusinessWeek's sudden antipathy toward "larger-than-life" corporate cowboys sounds phony. After all, you were champions in displaying these greedy superegos. Your black-and-white stories--and lack of criticism when it was necessary--make you co-responsible.

Wim Berkelder

Aalten, The Netherlands "The buyback boomerang" (Finance, Sept. 23) states that as chairman of US Airways Group Inc., I "ordered" a massive share-buyback plan. The fact is that the board of directors of US Airways was singularly responsive to the wishes of the company's shareholders relative to the stock buyback. The effectiveness of corporate buyback programs will be debated for as long as companies and shareholders seek to enhance value.

The thrust of your article is that stock buybacks are designed to maximize executive wealth by boosting earnings per share and, thus, share price. Your article named me, and no other executive, thus implying that I benefited from such a repurchase program. The undisputed fact is that I have never sold a share of US Airways stock nor exercised a single stock option.

Stephen M. Wolf

Chairman

US Airways Group Inc.

Arlington, Va.

Buybacks are a welcome event, especially in an age in which corporate executives are being accused of misappropriating corporate funds. Distributing excess cash from corporate coffers reduces management's ability to: 1) invest in unnecessary projects; 2) engage in unnecessary acquisitions; 3) spend lavishly on executive perks or even worse; 4) simply keep that money on the balance sheet.

Peter A. Bio

New York

I don't see the difference between me loading up on my employer's stock and my company loading up on its own stock. In both cases, diversity would be prudent. Too much cash? What about saving it or investing it in research and development, training, or upgraded gear? Most companies, especially tech companies, neglect this important detail. Companies should keep to what they're good at--their core business. Stock buybacks are the devil's diversion. If management [can't] properly handle the company's cash, why should I want their stock?

Phil Marsh

Andover, Mass. In "The fall of an icon" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Sept. 23), Jack Welch says: "During my full tenure, GE's market capitalization increased by $400 billion." So what? Shareholders don't benefit from a higher market cap when it grew mostly because the company issued new shares used to acquire other companies. Shareholders benefit from dividends and stock-price appreciation. Sure, General Electric Co.'s dividends and stock price have gone up, and shareholders have gotten richer, but not nearly as much as Welch has.

Shaun Breidbart

New York


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