1. Meg Whitman
> Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)
> Revenue: $127.2 billion
> YTD stock price: -45%
HP may be the most badly run large public company in the U.S. It also has among the worst corporate governance practices of any public company of substantial size. Meg Whitman has to take a very large portion of the blame for the ongoing fall of HP from one of the top tech companies in the world to one that is struggling to recover from years of decline. Just recently, HP revealed a shocking accounting scandal arising from its buyout of Autonomy. Whitman was sitting on the board when it approved the deal. When Whitman became CEO, she did not ask for a re-examination of Autonomy’s sales figures. Whitman has presided over several disappointing earnings reports, and has said HP may remain in trouble for several years. She and the board could blame former CEO Leo Apotheker for many of HP’s problems. He left the company in September 2011, after less than one year as chief executive. But Whitman is over a year into her tenure. She has not articulated any long-term vision for HP or explain how the company can regain its position as an industry leader.
2. Virginia Rometty
> International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM)
> Revenue: $106.9 billion
> YTD stock price: +4%
Virginia Rometty has been CEO of IBM since January 2012. She was well-regarded by the media before she became chief executive after holding several senior management positions at the tech company. She was ranked first in Fortune’s “Fifty Most Powerful Women in Business for 2012.” Rometty’s brief tenure could be characterized as doing no wrong to the successful company which grew at an extraordinary rate under her predecessor, Sam Palmisano, who ran IBM from 2002 until he was succeeded by Rometty. Over that 10-year period under Palmisano, IBM’s revenue rose from $81 billion to $107 billion. Net income improved from $3.6 billion to $15.9 billion. Rometty has not rocked the boat since she got the CEO’s job. Revenue dipped 5% in the third quarter, but that could be reasonably blamed on a slowing of business in Europe, a problem that has plagued many companies.
3. Patricia Woertz
> Archer Daniels Midland Co. (NYSE: ADM)
> Revenue: $89.0 billion
> YTD stock price: -5%
By most measures, Patricia Woertz is among the better large company CEOs in America. The core of ADM’s business, agricultural commodities, has been repeatedly rocked by changes in commodity prices. Among the diversification that has helped the company balance swings in commodities prices are forays into ethanol and oilseed processing. Woertz was appointed CEO in 2006. Over the last five years, revenue has grown from $69.8 billion to $89 billion. Net income over the same period has declined from $1.8 billion in fiscal 2006 to $1.2 billion in 2012, affected by the cost of goods. However, in the intervening years which include 2009, 2010 and 2011, net income rose each year and moved above $2 billion. Woertz is in the midst of an attempt to further diversify ADM’s portfolio of businesses in order to partially negate earnings weaknesses in some of its older divisions. ADM has bid for GrainCorp, an Australian company with a grain distribution network throughout much of Asia.
4. Indra Nooyi
> PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE: PEP)
> Revenue: $66.5 billion
> YTD stock price: +5%
Indra Nooyi has come under criticism recently because she has diversifies Pepsi’s businesses beyond its flagship drinks — particularly Pepsi — which have for years brought a steady flow of net income to investors. Nooyi’s theory has been that the soda business is unlikely to grow rapidly because of the market’s saturation from Pepsi and Coke products. Nooyi thought Pepsi has better hedge its bets. She has even given the diversification effort a name, ”Performance with Purpose.” This program, Pepsi claims, involves “delivering sustainable growth by investing in a healthier future for people and our planet.” But benefits to the planet are not what investors want. Pepsi may not be the among the most healthy beverages, but it is a cash cow. Pepsi’s struggles were reflected in its most recent quarterly report. Revenue fell 5% to $16.7 billion. Net income also dropped 5% to $1.9 billion. Revenue at the company’s flagship PepsiCo Americas Beverages dropped 7% to $5.5 billion. Wall Street’s concerns about Nooyi’s recent tenure are fair. ”Performance for Purpose” has not driven financial performance at all.
5. Ellen Kullman
> E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. (NYSE: DD)
> Revenue: $38.0 billion
> YTD stock price: -5%
Ellen Kullman’s challenges as head of the agriculture, food and bioscience company are reflected in its most recent quarterly results. Revenue fell 9% to $7.4 billion. Sales of its core agricultural division were up slightly to $1.5 billion. However, its chemical division took a beating. Third-quarter 2012 EPS from continuing operations were $.32 down from $0.60 in the same quarter a year ago. Kullman took over the chief executive’s position at the start of 2009, and most of that period has reflected a much better performance than the most recent period. Since then, revenue has risen from $27.3 billion to $38.7 billion. Net income has nearly doubled from $1.8 billion to $3.5 billion during the same period. Kullman has gotten high marks for her programs to expand DuPont away from its core chemical business. One of the largest steps Kullman has taken is the 2011 buyout of global enzyme and specialty food ingredients corporation, Danisco, more than $6 billion. The transaction shows that Kullman has a vision for DuPont that is well beyond the company’s legacy foundation.