5. Marc Benioff
> Company: Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM)
> Share price: YTD: +65%
Benioff co-founded Saleforce.com in 1999. Despite growing competition from larger companies such as Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL), Salesforce.com has maintained a torrid growth pace. Last quarter, revenue rose 35% to $788 million. Revenue for the first nine months rose 36%. Management forecasts that revenues for the entire fiscal year will be higher by 34% than they were last year. And this growth rate likely will not slacken. Salesforce.com expects to surpass a $4 billion annual revenue run rate during the 2014 fiscal year. Salesforce.com was one of the earliest companies into the cloud computing market — what has become one of the most important factors in the migration of information from data centers owned by corporations to those operated by outside companies. As Morningstar recently pointed out, “Customers have been able to avoid heavy capital investments they would have used to deploy on-premise software.” Forbes named Salesforce.com the “Most Innovative Company in the World” for 2012.
6. Brian Roberts
> Company: Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA)
> Share price YTD: +58%
Roberts, who has been chief executive since 2003, is credited with two major achievements that were critical to the ongoing success of Comcast, the largest cable company in America. First, Comcast continued to hold off competition from telecom and satellite TV companies intent on taking market share in the television and broadband markets. Second, Roberts also bolstered the financial performance of NBCUniversal, in which Comcast owns the majority position. Revenue at the company rose 15% during the most recent quarter to $16.5 billion. EPS rose 39% to $0.46, when special items were excluded. Cable revenue was up 7% despite the competitive market, aided by a 9% improvement in the high-speed Internet business. The Olympics helped NBCUniversal’s revenue, which rose by 31% in the latest quarter to $6.8 billion. While it might be tempting to argue that Comcast’s fortunes were based largely on the Olympics, the company also boasts a 24% improvement in revenue from its film entertainment business and a 9% increase in revenue from its high-speed Internet products. Those improvements are based on more than just luck.
7. Howard Schultz
> Company: Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX)
> Share price YTD: +18%
Starbucks early December announcement that it will open 3,000+ net new stores in the Americas region by 2017 and increase its penetration in China is the culmination of the comeback of Starbucks that began in 2008 when founder Schultz returned as CEO. Schultz cut 12,000 jobs and 600 stores as Starbucks entered the recession. Overexpansion and new competition, which included McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD), made some investors believe Starbucks was in a permanent retreat. More recently, however, in a little over the past year, the company has launched Refresher energy drinks, K-Cup packs, and the Verismo System — a single-serve brewing machine. Starbucks earnings show that most of these initiatives and the company’s base business are doing extremely well. For the fiscal year that ended on September 30, revenue increased 14% to hit a record $13.3 billion. EPS increased 10% to $1.79, compared to the prior year EPS of $1.62. Starbucks also opened 1,063 net new stores worldwide.
8. Jeff Weiner
> Company: LinkedIn Corp. (NYSE: LNKD)
> Share price YTD: +72%
It could easily be said that LinkedIn is the most successful of all the Web 2.0 initial public offerings. That universe includes Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN), Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA), Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) and a number of other smaller companies. While the shares of many Web 2.0 stocks have dropped since they went public, LinkedIn shares trade at $114, trouncing its IPO price of $45. Weiner joined LinkedIn as interim president in 2008 and was made CEO in June 2009. More recently, at the end of the third quarter, the company had 187 million members worldwide. LinkedIn has done a strong job in monetizing its user base. Third-quarter revenue rose 81% to $252 million. EPS was $0.02, up from a loss of $0.02 in the same quarter a year ago. The primary reason Wall St. is enamored with LinkedIn is that it has more than the single revenue stream, such as many Web 2.0 companies do. LinkedIn has three money-making products: the recruiter-centric Talent Solutions, which accounted for 55% of revenue in the most recent quarter; the advertising platform Marketing Solutions, which accounted for 25% of revenue; and Premium Subscriptions from those with LinkedIn profiles. Wall St. might argue that the business model has made Weiner’s life as CEO easy. The remarkably poor management at companies such as Groupon and Zynga proves that is not the case. Even with a strong model, execution counts.
Douglas A. McIntyre