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MBA To CEO: Business Schools Produce Europe's Top Corporate Chiefs

European business schools top ranks of chief executive officer producers. MBA graduates heading companies including BG Group, Banco Santander and Credit Suisse.

By  Seb Murray

Tue Jun 16 2015

Europe’s top MBA programs have produced chief executive officers of the largest public firms in each of the five largest economies on the continent.

Companies on the UK’s FTSE 100, France’s CAC 40, Germany’s DAX, Spain’s Ibex 35 and Italy’s FTSE MIB are led by MBA graduates of the business schools INSEAD, HEC Paris and IESE among other top institutions.  

INSEAD, which has campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, has the most: 12 CEOs of leading public European companies. These include António Horta-Osório of UK lender Lloyd’s Banking Group, Gonzalo Gortázar of Spanish bank CaixaBank, Helge Lund of oil major BG Group, and Tidjane Thiam of the UK insurer Prudential, who moves to Swiss bank Credit Suisse this year.

INSEAD has nearly twice as many top corporate chiefs as its nearest competitor. INSEAD MBA graduates also account for nine CEOs in the Fortune 500 — more than the alumni of top US business schools Stanford, Booth and Kellogg.

Spanish business school IESE counts four of the main Spanish stock index’s 35 companies as being led by alumni, as well as one UK-listed company. These include Rafael Villaseca Marco, who became chief executive of Gas Natural, the Spanish energy group, in 2005.

HEC Paris of France has produced two CEOs of FTSE 100 companies. Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of UK based pharmaceuticals corporation AstraZeneca, is the most notable example.

IE Business School, a leading school in Spain, produced the CEOs of two major Spanish listed companies. And Italy’s Bocconi University counts CEOs at two major Italian companies, Atlantia, a conglomerate, and Pirelli, the Formula 1 tyre maker, as alumni.

The UK’s Cass Business School graduated Muhtar Kent, CEO of beverage group Coca-Cola. Cranfield School of Management has produced two FTSE 100 CEOs, including the chief of British bank Barclays, Antony Jenkins.

US business schools lay claim to many CEOs of top European firms. They are led by Harvard Business School, which has seven CEOs from top European MBA programs. These include Vittorio Colao at telecoms group Vodafone, and Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, the world’s largest advertising group.

Wharton and Chicago Booth are also notable chief executive producers. Booth boasts several top corporate chiefs including José Antonio Álvarez, who leads Spain’s bank Banco Santander, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, and John Watson at Chevron, the energy major.  

Elsewhere, Stanford counts Carlos Brito, CEO of brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, as alumni; California-Berkeley graduated Joseph Jimenez, who leads pharma group Novartis; and University of Southern California’s Ivan Glasenberg leads Glencore Xstrata, the miner.