The MBAs Who Lead The World’s Most Valuable Companies

Duke University's Fuqua School of Business can lay claim to having the MBA leading the world's most valuable corporation

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business can lay claim to having the MBA leading the world’s most valuable corporation

When it comes to the world’s Corporate Elite, it’s no secret that Harvard Business School wins hands down in claiming more CEOs in the corner office than any other institution. But what may well be more surprising is how far ahead Harvard is over any other business school in the world.

A new analysis of the educational backgrounds of the chief executives of The Financial Times’ Top 500 global companies shows that nearly one in three (31%) now boast an MBA degree on their resumes. Some 28 chieftains, including the CEOs of General Electric, Procter & Gamble and JPMorgan Chase, earned their degrees from Harvard. Even more impressive. That’s three more CEOs than Harvard had only a year ago. HBS grads who occupy the corner office lead companies with a total market capitalization of at least $1.8 trillion.

INSEAD, the business school with campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, is next with nine CEOs on the list, though the six MBAs from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business who are at the top of their companies lead organizations with far more market value: $787 billion for Booth MBAs vs. $514 billion for INSEAD grads.


Even though the FT list is global with many non-U.S. companies, the U.S. business schools dominate the list with some 82 CEOs compared to only 19 by non-U.S. schools. In fact, Harvard alone has far more MBAs in the leading corporate jobs than all of the non-U.S. schools combined, 28 to 19.

HBS’ West Coast rival, Stanford University, comes in third with eight CEOs, including the heads of Anheuser-Busch Inbev, eBay, Abbott Laboratories, General Motors, Capital One Financial, and Time Warner. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Chicago Booth and Wharton are all tied at six CEOs a piece. The only prominent business school in the U.S. lacking a single CEO on the list: MIT Sloan.

There are clearly some surprises here. Half of the top ten most valuable corporations in the world are now headed by MBA graduates–each from a different school: Duke at Apple, Chicago Booth at Microsoft, Wharton at Johnson & Johnson, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School at Wells Fargo, and Harvard at General Electric.

Among the half dozen Wharton MBAs who lead FT 500 companies, there’s not a single banker–which is somewhat surprising given the school’s preeminent reputation in finance. In fact, the CEO with an MBA who runs the bank with the largest market cap is none other than Wells Fargo’s John Stumpf who got his MBA from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School in 1980. He is closely followed by JP Morgan Chase’s Jaime Dimon, who got his MBA from Harvard in 1982.


Another surprise: The Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad boasts two CEOs on the top 500, heading up Mastercard and DBS Group. It’s also interesting that the MBA who runs the company with the highest market value is from a school that can claim only one CEO on the FT list. It’s Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business which can boast Apple CEO Tim Cook among its alums. Based on the FT’s 2014 500 list of the world’s most valuable companies, Apple is No. 1 with a market cap of $479 billion. Due to a booming stock market, the market value of most of these companies is now much higher. Apple, for example, is worth $668 billion as of today (Jan. 23).

Some 22 business schools can claim at least one CEO of a FT 500 company. Besides Duke, a Babson College MBA, Akio Toyoda, leads the world’s most valuable auto company, Toyota, which had a market cap of nearly $200 billion. A City University Cass graduate in London leads the world’s most valuable beverage company, Coca-Cola, with a market value of $170 billion.

Other than bragging rights, the lists show the vast influence MBA-educated leaders are having in the corporate world. Among Harvard’s 28 chief executives on the FT 500, for example, a dozen earned their degrees in the 1980s, while eight got their MBAs in the 1990s, and seven in the 1970s. Unlike many startups or smaller companies, it often takes many years of corporate ladder climbing to ascend to the top job.

Because the FT list is based on market value, rather than annual revenue which is what the Fortune 500 uses to calculate its corporate roster, it is a better way to view the ultimate power and influence of MBAs at the top of the world’s largest corporations. The British newspaper said that business schools in the top 100 in this year’s global MBA rankings boast 104 CEOs of FT 500 companies among their alums. “Nine highly ranked schools account for 74 of these corporate leaders,” the FT said.

(See following page for our table of the schools with CEOs of the FT 500)

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