By: Sydney Finkelstein, Associate Dean of Executive Education Posted: Dec 17th, 2014

We’ve been looking at who has been naughty and nice, at least in the world of CEOs. Here’s my list of the Best and Worst CEOs of 2014.


#5: Andrew Wilson, CEO, Electronic Arts: In 2012 and 2013, Electronic Arts was named the “Worst Company in America” by Consumerist. Today, its stock price is up 96 percent, which Finkelstein calls “incredible.”

#4: John Martin, CEO, Gilead Sciences: Finkelstein says Martin “successfully brought Sovaldi to market and embraced a pricing strategy that delivered significant value to investors.”

#3: Jack Ma, CEO, Alibaba: After the largest IPO in history, which raised $25 billion in September, Alibaba has succeeded in growing its stock price an additional 12 percent since its IPO. Finkelstein credits Jack Ma with Alibaba’s significant growth—its total revenue grew by 53.7 percent to $2.74 billion in 2014 with mobile revenue growing by more than 1,000 percent.

#2: Kevin Plank, CEO, Under Armour: Under Armour’s stock price rose 58 percent, after an incredible 80-percent gain last year. Under Armour has now had four straight quarters of over 30-percent growth and 18 straight quarters of over 20-percent growth. “Nike,” says Finkelstein, “is on alert.”

#1: Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla and CEO, SpaceX: “2014 was an impressive year for Elon Musk as he led two companies on big growth trajectories,” says Finkelstein. “In addition to Tesla’s stock price increasing 38 percent year to date after rising 344 percent in 2013, SpaceX made a number of successful trips to space and won important government contracts.”


#5 Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter: With shares at Twitter dropping by 42 percent and monthly active users (MAU) slowing, Finkelstein says Twitter is not fulfilling its huge potential, growing more slowly and with more question marks under CEO Costolo.

#4 Eddie Lampert, CEO, Sears Holdings: Sears continues to book half-billion-dollar quarterly losses. Finkelstein cites Lampert’s failed strategy, arrogant leadership, and Sears’ rapidly dropping stock price as reasons for his place on this year’s worst CEOs list. This is the second consecutive year Lampert has been named one of Finkelstein’s worst CEOs.

#3 Philip Clarke, CEO, Tesco (with honorable mention to his predecessor as CEO, Terry Leahy): After what Finkelstein calls a disastrous year for Tesco, Clarke was fired on July 21, 2014. The company’s U.S. venture, Fresh & Easy, was long-time CEO Terry Leahy’s mistake, says Finkelstein, costing the company $2.7 billion. However, Clarke took one year to close a business that continued to hemorrhage money, he says.

#2: Dov Charney, CEO, American Apparel: In addition to several company scandals, alleged financial misconduct, and numerous lawsuits filed against American Apparel and Charney, Finkelstein also cites the company’s stock price, which is down 80 percent in five years, as one of several reasons Charney is the #2 worst CEO of 2014.

#1: Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva Salgado: CEO, Banco Espírito Santo (BES): Finkelstein’s worst CEO of the year goes to the head of the Salgado family of Portugal—the CEO who controlled the second-biggest bank in Portugal, and brought it to bankruptcy. During the first half of 2014, BES saw a loss of $4.5 billion. Finkelstein also cites allegations of fraud, complicated intertwining ownership stakes among family-controlled enterprises, and the fact that Portugal was forced to bail out BES with $6 billion as reasons why Salgado is the #1 worst CEO of 2014.

Over the last 20 years, Sydney Finkelstein, an expert on leadership and author of, "Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep it from Happening to You," has studied business failures and leaders’ career-ending mistakes. Since 2010, Finkelstein has shared with the public the CEOs he believes have made the biggest gaffes and who are leading companies with significant financial struggles.

Sydney is the Faculty Director of the Tuck Executive Program (TEP) and teaches in several other executive education programs at Dartmouth.  Learn from Sydney in upcoming programs such as Transition to Business Leadership, Leadership & Strategic Impact, or contact us about a Custom program designed for your organization's needs.

Join the conversation! Share your reactions to Syd's 2014 picks, or tell us your own Worst & Best CEOs of the year.



Other Media Coverage of Syd's CEOs Lists

Sydney Finkelstein on Twitter: @SydFinkelstein

Full Press Release from the Tuck School of Busines; December 17, 2014.

The worst CEOs of 2014; BBC Capital, Sydney Finkelstein, December 17, 2014

The 5 best business leaders of 2014; Fortune, Jennifer Reingold, December 17, 2014

Pinterest Board of Media Coverage: Best & Worst CEOs of 2014

Sydney Finkelstein's Best & Worst CEOs of 2013

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