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From MBA To CEO: Graduates Leading World's Largest Companies

From Apple to JPMorgan Chase, the number of large listed companies led by MBA graduates is on the rise. But which CEOs studied at which business schools?

Tue Jan 27 2015

The number of MBA graduates leading the world’s largest publically traded companies is on the rise.   

From Apple, the tech star that was the world's most valuable business in 2014, to JPMorgan Chase, the largest US bank by assets, a plethora of leading corporations are led by CEOs who once walked the halls of the most recognizable business schools.

Business schools place much value in their alumni. They provide an indication of what students can eventually achieve in their careers. For many, an MBA is seen as a route to more senior management positions.

In the FT500, a grouping of listed companies with the largest market capitalizations, the percentage of MBA alumni who are chief executives has nudged upwards 2% to 31% in a year.

The fluctuating value of the companies means this figure may shift, but from Microsoft to Banco Santander and from Shire to General Electric, a growing stock of chief executives can count some of their success to business schools like Harvard, Wharton and INSEAD.

Top Business Schools Producing Corporate Leaders

Pascal Soriot – AstraZeneca

Drugs giant AstraZeneca made headlines in 2014 for rebuffing an audacious £69.4 billion takeover offer from Pfizer of the US. The man behind that defence was Pascal Soriot. He graduated from the MBA at HEC Paris, a leading French business school, in 1986. He became chief executive of UK-based AstraZeneca in 2012. NYSE-listed AstraZeneca has 39,000 employees and a market cap of £59 billion.

Rafael Villaseca Marco – Gas Natural

Gas Natural is a Spanish natural gas utilities company that has 20 million customers in 25 countries, with footholds in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. It is fitting that a graduate of Spain’s highest-ranking business school went on to lead the country’s energy darling. Rafael Villaseca Marco, chief executive, graduated from IESE Business School’s MBA in 1976. He became chief of Gas Natural in 2005. The gas group has 17,000 employees and a market cap of €21 billion.

Muhtar Kent – Coca-Cola

The carbonated soft drinks group Coca-Cola has faced difficulty convincing health-conscious consumers to glug its sweet nectar. The man trying to make the world’s most iconic drinks brand fizz is Muhtar Kent, a graduate of Cass Business School in London. He graduated from its MBA in 1977, and joined the US-based company in 2008. Coca-Cola, whose consumers drink 10,000 of its soft drinks every second, apparently, has a market cap of $189 billion.

André Calantzopoulos – Philip Morris International

INSEAD boasts two arguably well-known corporate chiefs: António Horta-Osório, who heads Lloyds, the UK bank, and André Calantzopoulos, CEO of Philip Morris International. Smokers will know the latter well; Philip Morris is the world’s largest tobacco company outside China. It owns brands including Marlboro. CEO André graduated from INSEAD’s MBA in 1984. He rose to chief executive of Philip Morris in 2013. The US-based company, which had 91,000 employees in 2013, has a market cap of $127 billion.

Jeffrey Immelt – General Electric

General Electric, the American multinational conglomerate, has businesses ranging from energy to financial services. Its chief executive Jeffrey Immelt graduated from Harvard Business School’s MBA in 1982. It is a fitting background: GE is one of MBA students’ most popular companies to work for. Jeffrey took the lead of the company in 2001. He is perhaps most well-known for his $16.9 billion bid for French industrial group Alstom in 2014. GE, which had 307,000 employees as of December 2013, has a market cap of $245 billion.

American Dominance

While a flock of European business schools like EMLYON, which counts Schneider Electric CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire along its alumni, boast chief executive graduates outside of the FT500, within the index it is US institutions that have provided the largest amount of business leaders.

Harvard, for example, has an impressive 28 chief executives from its MBA alumni group. Stanford GSB in California has nine. This includes Carlos Brito, CEO of Belgium’s Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewing giant, and John Donahoe, chief executive of online marketplace eBay.

Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Wharton School and the Kellogg School of Management all have six FT500 CEOs each, including Booth’s Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, drugs giant Johnson & Johnson chief Alex Gorsky of Wharton, and Kellogg alumnus Bill McDermott, who heads SAP, the German software company.

Elsewhere in the US, California’s Berkeley: Haas has two CEOs in the FT500 – Joseph Jimenez of Swiss drugs giant Novartis, and Adobe Systems CEO Shantanu Narayen – and Vanderbilt University: Owen counts David Farr, CEO of Emerson Electric, and oil services group Baker Hughes’ chief executive Martin Craighead as alumni.

However, outside of America both Canada’s Rotman School of Management and India’s Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad have two chief executives leading companies in the FT500.

For Europe, Cranfield School of Management in the UK graduated Antony Jenkins, CEO of Barclays, the bank, and London Business School educated David Pyott, CEO of healthcare group Allergan.