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Jeff Bezos takes top spot in new CEO ranking

14 January 2019
This article is more than 5 years old.

· Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos ranks as world’s best brand guardian, but loss to Amazon’s brand value potentially in excess of US$10bn if divorce spat mishandled

· Toyota’s Akio Toyoda comes second with 71.6 score, celebrating 10 years at helm

· Tim Cook credited with upholding Steve Jobs’ legacy, coming in at 4th place

· Google CEO Sundar Pichai in 13th rank, sees reputation dented by Congress hearing

· Only 3 of world’s top 100 CEOs are women, with IBM’s Ginni Rometty in top 10

· Chinese CEOs make up 22% of most successful brand guardians ranking

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, is the world’s best brand guardian, according to the latest report by Brand Finance, the world’s leading independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy. Bezos ranks first among top 100 CEOs, with a Brand Guardianship Index score of 72.4. The ranking is extracted from the Brand Finance Global 500 2019 report on the world’s most valuable brands, set to be released on 22nd January at a World Economic Forum event in Davos discussing the role of CEOs in shaping brands and reputation.

David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, commented:

“Developing a strong brand is now more important than ever, not only for commercial success, but for longevity of the relationship between a brand and its stakeholders. The role of the Chief Executive Officer has totally evolved as we navigate the era of personality CEOs where public scrutiny is equal to that of a celebrity figure. It is no longer enough to have a vision for the brand’s future. It is about forging an authentic public profile and reacting earnestly to reputational crises – especially as customers become more discerning in their experiences and expectations. This new research shines a spotlight on those CEOs who are succeeding in building brand resilience and safeguarding brand value.”

Based on the world’s top companies by portfolio brand value, the new Brand Guardianship Index rates CEOs to capture how well they measure up as brand managers and ambassadors. Similar to its Brand Strength Index, Brand Finance’s new metric scored 0-100 considers multiple inputs reflecting CEOs’ success in marketing investment, stakeholder equity, and business performance.

According to these criteria, the Amazon founder and CEO for the past 25 years, Jeff Bezos is heralded as the world’s most successful brand manager among his peers. Bezos is credited as a visionary, growing the Amazon brand from its humble beginnings as an online bookstore through to pioneering the revolutionary e-reader Kindle and making shrewd investments in businesses such as IMDB, Alexa, Lovefilm, and Zappos. Scoring highly for market capitalization growth with this impressive investment portfolio, Bezos has led Amazon on a path of success since it was first founded in Seattle, Washington in 1994. If mishandled, the effect of Bezos’ recently announced high-profile divorce upon Amazon’s brand value could potentially be well in excess of US$10 billion; with the expectation that the range of loss could be between 5%-10%.

Toyota CEO recovers from historic scandal
CEO of Japanese carmaker Toyota, Akio Toyoda has survived the very public reputational disaster in 2010 as a result of faulty accelerator pedals linked to dozens of deaths and injuries. Toyoda was slammed for his handling of the safety scandal and cited as a poor brand guardian but has now, 9 years on, been ranked as the world’s second-best CEO with a Brand Guardianship Index score of 71.6 out of 100. Having admitted his mistakes in public hearings and through adopting a crisis communications strategy, the grandson of Toyota’s founder has reclaimed favour amongst his key stakeholders.

Tech giants feature prominently
Amongst the top 100 CEOs, tech corporations Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Google and Facebook all feature within the top 20. Top of the tech tycoons is CEO of Apple, Tim Cook. The reputation ranking suggests that the Apple brand likely would not be what it is today without Cook’s leadership. He is credited with successfully building upon the Apple reputation and legacy left by Steve Jobs, and establishing his own highly effective business model. Instead of investing in the best new technology, Cook buys stocks, accumulates cash and pays out dividends. This will be crucial in weathering the storm in the months ahead, especially whilst the brand experiences slumping sales and a slowdown in China amid President Trump’s trade war.

Search engine giant Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, ranked 13th, with a Brand Guardianship Index score of 57.7 out of 100, saw his reputation severely dented since his first appearance in Congress. He testified before the US House Judiciary Committee last month, facing questions from lawmakers on a number of issues including data privacy, the reported launch of a censored search engine in China and allegations that Google exercised bias against conservative users. Google has had a turbulent 2018; battling employee walkouts as a result of accusations that management shielded executives involved in sexual misconduct and being slapped with a US$5.0bn fine from the European Union for abusing the dominance of its Android mobile operating system.

In contrast, fellow Silicon Valley giant, Facebook, has perhaps had a more tumultuous past year, reflected in the 16th place ranking of CEO Mark Zuckerberg and a subsequent 56.7 out of 100 score. Shares of the social network tumbled as Facebook faced a barrage of attacks about ways in which the platform was manipulated to spread false information and for Zuckerberg’s insufficient and controversial responses to these very public misgivings. Despite repeated calls to remove him from his dual role as Chairman and CEO, Facebook's board of directors remain powerless; which has effectively triggered a cycle of mostly negative media coverage for Zuckerberg.

IBM’s Ginni Rometty in the top 10 although only 3 women make the ranking
A mere 3 female CEOs make the rankings, with IBM’s Ginni Rometty (6) firmly in the top 10 with an index score of 64.7 out of 100. General Motors’ CEO Mary Barra (39) and KPMG CEO Lynne Doughtie (73) are also leading the charge amongst their male counterparts. The number of women leading the largest companies has always been small. Out of the Fortune 500 companies, women CEOs number just 24, down from 32 a year ago. The debate around why there are fewer women CEOs, and whether having a gender quota in place is actually effective, is still an ongoing discussion amongst policymakers and corporates in boardrooms across the globe.

Breakdown of top CEOs by company’s country of incorporation
The Brand Guardianship Index is made up of 100 CEOs representing a variety of industries and countries, with 37% leading US-based companies and 22% coming from China. This is a testament to the business acumen of Chinese CEOs who are rising above the parapet of their European counterparts, particularly when navigating such a large domestic market and global expansion against the backdrop of regulatory burden.

Brand Finance’s Brand Guardianship Index hones in on a group with strong performance but low investment; the several Chinese CEOs in the ranking – such as Robin Li (Baidu), Qingping Li (China CITIC Bank), Pony Ma (Tencent), Peter Mingzhe (PingAn), and Daniel Yong (Alibaba). Robin Li of Chinese software giant Baidu leads the charge for Chinese CEOs, ranked 5th place with a score of 64.7 out of 100. As Chinese baijiu spirit brands become popular outside of China, it is notable that Wuliangye CEO Zhongguo Liu is ranked amongst the world’s top 10 CEOs, with a CEO Brand Guardianship Index score of 62.5 out of 100.

World’s longest-serving CEOs
The tenure of CEOs has also been taken into account when preparing the Brand Guardianship Index ranking. The world’s third most reputable CEO, Bernard Arnault of Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, (LVMH) has been leading the French luxury goods conglomerate for the last 30 years. Arnault receives a CEO Brand Guardianship Index score of 68.4 out of 100 and has earned the respect of his staff and senior leadership team who praise him for his sharp focus on financial controls and ability to make intelligent appointments. However, Softbank’s Masayoshi Son is the longest-serving CEO in the ranking, having managed the brand since its foundation in 1981. Meanwhile, Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi, having only taken the reigns at the cab-booking app in late 2017, has, in such a short span of time, also forged a reputation as a trusted leader, ranked 38th with a Brand Guardianship Index score of 50.1 out of 100. Khosrowshahi was tasked with rebuilding Uber’s reputation following a string of scandals.

Johnson & Johnson weather the storm
Holding a CEO Brand Guardianship Index score of 53.0 out of 100, the United States based pharmaceutical and consumer products company, Johnson & Johnson, saw their CEO Alex Gorsky ranked 26th in the Brand Finance Brand Guardianship Index league table. This suggests a strong CEO able to hold their own in the face of challenges, especially those posed recently by the talcum powder asbestos scandal and subsequent global apology issued by Gorsky. The brand was hit by a US$50.0bn drop in market value of the company stock, however the response provided by its CEO proved enough to weather the storm and regain brand trust in the face of such a public reputational crisis.


Note to Editors
For the first time this year, valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance has undertaken new research into the world’s most reputable CEOs. Additional data has been provided by Reputation Institute and CSR Hub. The 100 most reputable CEOs in the world are included in the Brand Finance Brand Guardianship Index 2019 league table.

The 2019 iteration of the Brand Finance Global 500 report on the world's most valuable brands across all sectors and countries will be launched on 22nd January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The event will feature a panel discussion on "The Evolving Role of CEOs in Shaping Brands and Reputation" drawing on the findings of the Brand Guardianship Index.

Brand Finance helped craft the internationally recognised standard on Brand Valuation – ISO 10668, and the recently approved standard on Brand Evaluation – ISO 20671.

Data compiled for the Brand Finance league tables and reports are provided for the benefit of the media and are not to be used for any commercial or technical purpose without written permission from Brand Finance.

Media Contacts

Penny Erricker
Communications Executive
Brand Finance

About Brand Finance

Brand Finance is the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy. Bridging the gap between marketing and finance for more than 25 years, Brand Finance evaluates the strength of brands and quantifies their financial value to help organizations of all kinds make strategic decisions.

Headquartered in London, Brand Finance has offices in over 20 countries, offering services on all continents. Every year, Brand Finance conducts more than 5,000 brand valuations, supported by original market research, and publishes over 100 reports which rank brands across all sectors and countries.

Brand Finance also operates the Global Brand Equity Monitor, conducting original market research annually on over 5,000 brands, surveying more than 150,000 respondents across 38 countries and 31 industry sectors. Combining perceptual data from the Global Brand Equity Monitor with data from its valuation database enables Brand Finance to arm brand leaders with the data and analytics they need to enhance brand and business value.

Brand Finance is a regulated accountancy firm, leading the standardization of the brand valuation industry. Brand Finance was the first to be certified by independent auditors as compliant with both ISO 10668 and ISO 20671 and has received the official endorsement of the Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB) in the United States.

Definition of Brand

Brand is defined as a marketing-related intangible asset including, but not limited to, names, terms, signs, symbols, logos, and designs, intended to identify goods, services, or entities, creating distinctive images and associations in the minds of stakeholders, thereby generating economic benefits.

Brand Strength

Brand strength is the efficacy of a brand’s performance on intangible measures relative to its competitors. Brand Finance evaluates brand strength in a process compliant with ISO 20671, looking at Marketing Investment, Stakeholder Equity, and the impact of those on Business Performance. The data used is derived from Brand Finance’s proprietary market research programme and from publicly available sources.

Each brand is assigned a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score out of 100, which feeds into the brand value calculation. Based on the score, each brand is assigned a corresponding Brand Rating up to AAA+ in a format similar to a credit rating.

Brand Valuation Approach

Brand Finance calculates the values of brands in its rankings using the Royalty Relief approach – a brand valuation method compliant with the industry standards set in ISO 10668. It involves estimating the likely future revenues that are attributable to a brand by calculating a royalty rate that would be charged for its use, to arrive at a ‘brand value’ understood as a net economic benefit that a brand owner would achieve by licensing the brand in the open market.

The steps in this process are as follows:

1 Calculate brand strength using a balanced scorecard of metrics assessing Marketing Investment, Stakeholder Equity, and Business Performance. Brand strength is expressed as a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score on a scale of 0 to 100.

2 Determine royalty range for each industry, reflecting the importance of brand to purchasing decisions. In luxury, the maximum percentage is high, while in extractive industry, where goods are often commoditised, it is lower. This is done by reviewing comparable licensing agreements sourced from Brand Finance’s extensive database.

3 Calculate royalty rate. The BSI score is applied to the royalty range to arrive at a royalty rate. For example, if the royalty range in a sector is 0-5% and a brand has a BSI score of 80 out of 100, then an appropriate royalty rate for the use of this brand in the given sector will be 4%.

4 Determine brand-specific revenues by estimating a proportion of parent company revenues attributable to a brand.

5 Determine forecast revenues using a function of historic revenues, equity analyst forecasts, and economic growth rates.

6 Apply the royalty rate to the forecast revenues to derive brand revenues.

7 Discount post-tax brand revenues to a net present value which equals the brand value.


Brand Finance has produced this study with an independent and unbiased analysis. The values derived and opinions presented in this study are based on publicly available information and certain assumptions that Brand Finance used where such data was deficient or unclear. Brand Finance accepts no responsibility and will not be liable in the event that the publicly available information relied upon is subsequently found to be inaccurate. The opinions and financial analysis expressed in the study are not to be construed as providing investment or business advice. Brand Finance does not intend the study to be relied upon for any reason and excludes all liability to any body, government, or organisation.

The data presented in this study form part of Brand Finance's proprietary database, are provided for the benefit of the media, and are not to be used in part or in full for any commercial or technical purpose without written permission from Brand Finance.

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