Ranked: The best performing chief executives in the world 2017

Rebecca Smith
The chief executives on the list came out top for financial performance as well as other attributes
The chief executives on the list came out top for financial performance as well as other attributes (Source: Getty)

The boss of Zara’s parent firm Inditex, Pablo Isla, has been named the best-performing chief executive in the world for 2017, by the Harvard Business Review.

The Spanish businessman, who ranked third last year, took the top spot for the first time, over WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell. Since becoming chief executive in 2005, Isla has overseen a global expansion push that has increased his firm’s market value sevenfold.

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Pablo Isla heads up the world's largest fashion group
Pablo Isla heads up the world's largest fashion group (Source: Getty)

Of the 100 top chief executives, seven headed up UK firms, with Sorrell the highest rated in second place, followed by Compass chief executive Richard Cousins in 11th place, who is stepping down next year.

Aberdeen Asset Management’s Martin Gilbert (now co-chief executive of Standard Life Aberdeen following the merger with Standard Life), Randgold Resources’ Mark Bristow, Aon’s Gregory Case, Unilever’s Paul Polman, and London Stock Exchange’s Xavier Rolet also featured on the list.

The highest ranked bosses of UK firms
1. Sir Martin Sorrell - WPP
2. Richard Cousins - Compass
3. Martin Gilbert - Aberdeen Asset Management
4. Mark Bristow - Randgold Resources
5. Gregory Case - Aon
6. Paul Polman - Unilever
7. Xavier Rolet - London Stock Exchange

Rolet, who has spent nearly nine years in the role, announced last week he will step down by the end of next year.

The ranking assesses financial returns, along with other factors such as the firm’s environmental, social and governance performance.

If the list had been compiled solely on financial performance, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos would have taken the top spot.

Harvard Business Review said the list was “remarkably consistent” with last year’s rankings, with two of the top three chief executives among the top three in 2016 too, while 16 of the top 25 were in the top quartile.

Of the 28 chief executives who dropped off the list since last year, 11 had retired from their firms. The majority of the rest, including the bosses of Heineken and Vodafone, lost their spots after a significant decline in share price.

Last year's number one ranked boss, Lars Rebien Sørensen of insulin maker Novo Nordisk, stepped down in January.

On average, the 100 top chief executives generated a 2,507 per cent return on stock during a 17-year tenure, for a 21 per cent average annual return.

Highest rated chief executives in the world
1. Pablo Isla - Inditex
2. Martin Sorrell - WPP
3. Jensen Huang - Nvidia
4. Jacques Aschenbroich - Valeo
5. Bernard Arnault - LVMH
6. Martin Bouygues - Bouygues
7. Johan Thijs - KBC
8. Mark Parker - Nike
9. Elmar Degenhart - Continental
10. Florentino Perez Rodriguez - ACS
11. Richard Cousins - Compass
12. Marc Benioff - Salesforce
13. Carlos Brito - Anheuser-Busch InBev
14. Bernard Charles - Dassault Systemes
15. Lars Rasmussen - Coloplast
16. Benoit Potier - Air Liquide
17. Anders Runevad - Vestas
18. Hisashi Ietsugu - Sysmex
19. Wes Bush - Northrop Grumman
20. Suh Kyung-Bae - Amorepacific

For the full list of 100 top performing chief executives, click here.

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