Best CEOs of 2012

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Best CEO lists can be based on dozens of factors. For public companies, the best metric is usually share price. It is hard for chief executives to be considered very good if the shares of their company do not outperform the broader market.

Click here to see the 8 best CEOs of 2012

However, current success does not mean future success is certain, and the best CEOs must also make sure their companies continue to thrive. To succeed, a CEO might have a strategic vision, a meticulous plan or the ability to hire and keep excellent management. Good performance means more to shareholders, if a stock price continues to improve over the long term. Near the top of the list of CEOs who have accomplished this kind of multiyear success are Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2012 track records of dozens of large company CEOs. We looked at share price, execution, revenue and EPS growth, as well as evidence of substantial long-term plans. Some of the CEOs who made the list because they excelled or stood out in some or all of these measures had one particularly good year. Dan Hesse of Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) is an example. His ability to package his company and find a buyer were considered nearly impossible because of larger competitors AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless. Nevertheless, Hesse managed to make a deal with Softbank, which paid a large premium to take a 70% interest in the Sprint.

Other CEOs have posted many years of strong earnings and sales growth. In most cases, to do so they have changed their products to draw in new customers or create better operating efficiencies. Howard Schultz of Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) is among these CEOs. Starbucks has not only expanded its store base, but it has done so to some extent because of a series of product innovations and additions.

To identify the best CEOs of 2012, 24/7 Wall St. screened for best performing stocks in the S&P 500 using Cap IQ. The market value of the company had to be greater than $3 billion. We also examined EPS and earnings growth for the most recent quarter and recent year. To ensure that we only measured the impact of the current CEO and not a predecessor, we only considered executives who had been in the position for at least two years. Finally, we only considered CEOs who had done something particularly meaningful that had, or likely would have, a long-term effect on the companies they run.