Want to beat the S&P 500? Maybe you should be investing in CEOs instead of stocks. At least, if you consider the results of a new study published Monday by Chief Executive magazine, it might be worth a shot.
The study, calculated by Applied Finance Group, found that the top 50 CEOs delivered an average total shareholder return of 73.3% since June 2007. That, says Chief Executive, soundly trounces the S&P, which returned a paltry 14.9% over the same period.
Who are these paragons of production? The number-one CEO out of 338 studied was Jeffery H. Boyd of Priceline.com; the company did not have a ranking for 2009.
While the firms listed in the study aren’t drawn just from the financial world, the top five from that industry are listed in the accompanying chart, along with the top five (or bottom five, as the case may be) wealth destroyers, as the study calls them.
The absolute bottom, according to the study, was Gregg L. Engles of Dean Foods; he ranked 338th out of 338, down from a ranking of 292 in 2009. The bottom 50 companies in the study not only didn’t offer their shareholders a positive return, they lost an average of 3.4%.
Drew Morris, CEO of Great Numbers!, who contributed to the study, said in a statement, “The past 12 months have not been an easy time to grow—or for companies that already had high levels of ‘economic margin,’ which is profit in excess of their risk-adjusted cost of capital. The more profitable a company is, the more difficult it is to maintain high levels of profitability when competitors step up and target market leaders.”
The study also points out that the regulatory environment can make it tough, too, for companies to move up in the rankings. “[F]inancial and healthcare companies have become the worst-performing sectors over the last 12 months, leading even well-managed organizations to struggle to maintain past success.”
The study looked at CEOs who had been in their jobs for at least three years, so that their actions and strategies under a variety of conditions could be evaluated. REITs were excluded from the study.