Fully a third of the top dogs on Barron's 30 Most Respected CEOs list released in this week's print edition hail from the tech world.
Given how virtually all anyone talks about these days (other than healthcare, but don't expect a discussion of that here) is social media, gadgets and the interwebz, it should be no shock. Nonetheless, a few tech names fell off the list this year: Chase Carey of DirecTV
left the company to be the No. 2 man at NewsCorp.; Satoru Iwata of Nintendo
due to the Wii
's declining fortunes; and Rick Tsai of TSMC, as he's no longer with the semiconductor manufacturer.
So we have, then, the 10 most respected CEOs from the tech world (phrases in italics are Barron's summation of why each was named to the list):
• Steve Jobs
: He won Barron's "MVP" slot on the list. If anyone knows how to make a splash, it's Jobs. Last summer's release of the iPhone 3GS caused a frenzy among both die-hard Apple fans and iPod fanatics. Despite all the snark thrown at the iPad for its poor choice of name or being called a big iPhone that can't make calls or take pictures, reports are that the device is already sold out pre-launch. Barron's also points out how Apple's stock price dipped precipitously when news of Jobs' health problems leaked out, making the case that Jobs is vital to his company's success. Truly the cult of personality. A returnee to the list. "From iPods to iPads, he mints money for shareholders."
• Jim Balsillie & Mike Lazaridis
, Research in Motion
: Despite the astounding popularity of the iPhone and the treatment of the Android as the second coming of smartphones, the Blackberry keeps chugging along. It's still enjoying growth and has a very popular enterprise and small business user base. The duo, CEOs since 2002, are credited by Barron's for keeping it in play when even Palm - once the gold standard of PDAs - has bowed out. Not their first time on the list. "Started the BlackBerry obsession, now tangling with Apple."
• Jeffrey Bezos
: Two words: The Kindle
. Maybe no gadget other than the iPhone/iPad has had as much buzz in the past year as the new Kindle. Book publishers tangled with the online retailer on prices, eventually caving. A Twitterstorm of controversy was lighted when some titles were accidentally deleted from customers' devices. And, you might not have known: Amazon has become one of the leading providers of cloud storage. This was not Bezos' first time on the list. "His Kindle is rewriting the way we read."
• John Chambers
: The man has been CEO of the company since 1995 and that alone might have been enough to put him on the list. But Barron's cites the many ventures Cisco has gotten its tentacles into: set-top boxes, Wi-Fi, video conferencing (if you watch 24, you've been aware of the last one on that list for years now). Plus, Cisco's continually expanding its business in other directions, such as proprietary servers. Not his first year on the list, unsurprisingly. "Finding new ways to keep a giant growing."
• Larry Ellison
: The company's merger with Sun Microsystems positions it, says Barron's, to challenge Hewlett-Packard, proving that mergers can work in the tech sector. It's already a heavy hitter in the business software market. Plus, the guy's yacht won the America's Cup race and he's been Oracle's CEO since 1977. Yes, '77. New on the list this year. "Sailing away with the corporate software market."
• Reed Hastings
: You're forgiven if you didn't know Hastings has been CEO of Netflix as long as Jobs has been CEO of Apple (1997). You're even forgiven if you didn't know Netflix existed in 1997. No matter to him, as his business seems to be the Blockbuster-killer. A generation of movie-viewers are growing up never seeing the inside of a video-rental store and the company makes more deals all the time to get more movies and television shows streamed directly online. The service streams through all major video-game systems (the discs for Wii streaming are in the mail) and faces little competition. Not his first time on the list. "Repeatedly beats the odds while building a DVD empire."
• Ma Huanteng
, Tencent: Given that China's the most populous nation in the world, it shouldn't be a surprise that the largest internet messaging
company in the world is Chinese. Despite issues with government censorship on the Internet, Tencent has thrived and given its shareholders a good return, Barron's says. And even if IM faces issues due to said censorship, it's making inroads in the search market (and Google's exit can only bode well for them there). Tencent CEO since 1997, this is not Ma's first time on the list. "Instant messaging mogul built China's biggest 'Net company."
• Mark Hurd
: Despite the challenges from other companies whose CEOs also are on this list (Oracle & Cisco), HP
's CEO remained on the list at least in part because he cut pay rather than jobs. And everyone at HP got a pay cut, himself included. Looking ahead, he said he wanted to make sure he had enough hands on deck "to deploy" once the company came out the other side of this recession. Barron's betting on that time being now and pointed out that HP was still the world's top-seller of personal computers and printers. He's been CEO since 2005 and is a repeat customer on the list. "Consummate manager has HP humming."
• Fujio Mitarai
: Fujio keeps it a family business: His uncle founded the company. He's helped it expand beyond its film camera roots, Barron's said, to become a leader in digital photography - both the cameras and imaging equipment. But even more importantly, he took over a company in the Netherlands in the past year to "expand into high-end printing systems." Its shares rose an astounding 41 percent. Not too shabby. CEO since 1995, this is not his first time on the list. "Japanese business statesman negotiates the digital world."
• Samuel Palmisano
: The company that once was counted out saw its shares rise 56 percent in 2009. Big Blue has been getting heavy into cloud computing and partnerships with urban centers in developing markets. Barron's sees this as a — successful — reinvention of the company. CEO since 2002, this isn't his first time on the list. "Big Blue heads for the clouds."