16 May 2012

CEOs win every time...

The New York Times posted an article tonight with a photo of JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon looking rather pensive and heavy-hearted (See NYT: JP Morgan's Trading Loss is Said to Rise 50%). It got me thinking about the value a CEO really brings to the helm of a large corporation.

I worked for a company years ago that hired a CEO because he was "turnkey"(I'm just using the word of choice from all the press releases) thus promising to steer us in the right direction as he had with his previous employer. He came in with a whirlwind of half-baked awkward changes, pressed for signature on a really large and entirely unprofitable contract, and saw the stock price plummet before leaving with $35 million in severance.

It raise a question: What do we pay CEOs to do that is so magical no one else can do it? Or do it for less? We're such sticklers for corporate austerity - with this one glaring exception.

A recent Forbes article asks the same question (See Forbes: Shareholders Revolt: Are Wall Street CEOs Worth Their Pay?) which left me wondering whether anyone has written a doctoral dissertation on the track record of leading CEOs. I would love to see longitudinal data on their ability to repeat successes from one company to the next. Presumably, one becomes a CEO through a consistent series of successes - and yet we see these same people so often fail atop the pinnacle.

Makes me want to go get a Ph.D. so I can pick it all apart!

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