CEOs: Founders beat out managers

By Felix Salmon
November 5, 2009
naming Steve Jobs its CEO of the decade, for his work at Apple.

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We’re less than two months from a New Year’s where a 9 ticks over into a 0, and so that means all manner of decade retrospectives. (And still we haven’t come up with a name for this decade!) Fortune is getting into the game early, naming Steve Jobs its CEO of the decade, for his work at Apple.

What’s more interesting to me is the list of 12 “also-rans” for the title: Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Warren Buffett, Bernie Madoff, Carlos Slim, Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Alan Greenspan, and Martha Stewart. Five of the 12 aren’t CEOs at all (Page, Brin, Skilling, Fastow, Greenspan); and not a single one of the 12 is a CEO who was hired to run a company by its board of directors.

Jobs, by contrast, is such a CEO, in a manner of speaking: although he did found Apple, he sold all his shares when he was ousted in the 80s, and was hired back by Apple’s board. (As a result, he’s made more money from Pixar than he has from Apple.)

It’s natural for company founders to give themselves the CEO job. But how come all of Fortune’s top CEOs seem to be founders, and none of them are in the much more common position of having been hired, by the board, to run the company?

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