Anand Mahindra, Aditya Puri among Barron’s 2016 list of world’s best CEOs


New Delhi: Two Indians—Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd’s Anand Mahindra and HDFC Bank Ltd’s Aditya Puri—have made it to the annual list of the world’s 30 best chief executive officers by American financial magazine Barron’s.

Mahindra, who was credited with transforming his family’s “industrial business into a global conglomerate,” is a newcomer on the list.

Puri, among the 20 CEOs who have found a mention in the list for the second consecutive year, was cited for his efforts in building “HDFC Bank from scratch to India’s second-largest (private sector) bank.”

Shantanu Narayen, the Hyderabad-born CEO of Adobe Systems Inc., is also a high-profile newcomer in the 2016 list. He was joined by Nike Inc.’s CEO Mark Parker, Comcast Corp.’s Brian Roberts, Airbus Group NV’s Thomas Enders and Qantas Airways Ltd’s Alan Joyce.

A prominent returnee to the list is Inc.’s Jeff Bezos, who had been a constant fixture in the list since 2008 but dropped off last year because “Amazon’s performance in 2014 raised new doubts about the founder’s ability to convert massive sales into profits.”

This time around, with “long-awaited profits starting to flow, Bezos is back on the list.

Barron’s said, “Bezos was struggling a year ago with the failure of Amazon’s mobile-phone effort and smarting from a bruising royalty battle with publisher Hachette Book Group. All seems forgotten. Bezos is back to doing business with Hachette; he launched Echo, a cult-hit home speaker that responds to voice requests, and he disclosed results for Amazon Web Services, the company’s burgeoning cloud offering.”

Bezos’s return, Barron’s said, had reunited the CEOs who run Facebook Inc., Amazon, Netflix Inc. and Alphabet Inc. (the parent company of Google).

“The FANG group, as it’s known, dominated technology in 2015 through innovation and marketing savvy,” it noted.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet’s Larry Page and Netflix’s Reed Hastings are all part of this year’s list. The list also includes Tencent Holdings Ltd’s Ma Huateng, Starbucks Corp.’s Howard Schultz, Under Armour Inc.’s Kevin Plank and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s Carlos Brito and Walt Disney Co.’s Robert Iger.

Interestingly, this year’s list of top CEOs has a notable absentee (or in Barron’s speak, he’s off the list). Apple CEO Tim Cook has been dropped from the 2016 list for struggling “to create the next big hit at the company that birthed the iPhone.”

In other words, Apple hasn’t exactly “grown its product line and remains overly reliant on the iPhone.”

Barron’s explained, “Shares are down 18% in the past year; the Apple Watch is a work in progress; and the long-awaited TV business remains a rumour. Cook still has the ability to re-energize the company. Is an Apple Car on the horizon? We’ll reassess Cook’s standing next year.”

Masayoshi Son of Softbank Group Corp. is another name that has gone off this year’s list. Barron’s, while reasoning his exclusion, said Son’s “big bet on US wireless, via Sprint, has yet to pay off.”

Barron’s said its annual list of top CEOs “reflects the collective wisdom of the publication’s editors and writers. There are no specific criteria we seek, other than a history of strong leadership over a lengthy period; our preferred tenure is five years or more in the top job.”