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These Are 'The Best CEOs' of 2012 (And the Political Parties They Support!)


The financial blog 24/7 Wall St. on Tuesday released its list of the "best CEOs of 2012" -- and further investigation reveals that a plurality of political donations made by the “best CEOs” were to Democrat causes, according to data available on opensecrets.org

“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,” 24/7 Wall St.’s Douglas A. McIntyre writes, explaining how they came up with this year’s list.

“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,” he adds. “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.”

He continues:

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.

So, without any further introduction, here are 24/7 Wall St.'s “best CEOs of 2012” and TheBlaze's breakdown of their political donations [all block quotes via 24/7 Wall St., all graphs via TheBlaze]:

1. Daniel Hesse

Company: Sprint-Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S)

Share price YTD:+137 percent

Hesse, who has run Sprint since late 2007, finally saved the company after a long trail of failed attempts. He did not accomplish the task by improving operations. Rather, Hesse found an investor willing to buy a majority interest in the company — not an easy task given how badly positioned the third-place cellular company in the United States has been.

Sprint’s third-quarter results are ample evidence of the difficulty the corporation would have as an independent operation and without outside financial support. While revenue rose 5 percent to $8.8 billion, Sprint lost $767 million. On October 15, it was announced that SoftBank would invest $20.1 billion in Sprint for an approximately 70 percent stake. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is expected to invest aggressively in Sprint’s expansion.

Note: Of the political donations made by Cellular Telecom & Internet Assn. during the 2012 election cycle, 36 percent went to Democrats and 64 percent went to Republicans. Meanwhile, 46 percent of Sprint Nextel donations went to Democrats while 54 percent went to Republicans.

2. John Donahoe

Company: eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY)

Share price YTD: +61 percent

Donahoe became CEO of eBay in early 2008. Wall St. questioned whether eBay’s core auction business could survive competition from online giant Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and an army of smaller online auction firms. Most investors admired eBay’s PayPal online payment system, while the legacy auction business hampered overall corporate earnings growth. That has changed. In the third quarter, the results of the renewed drive into the auction business showed. Marketplace revenue rose 9 percent to $1.8 billion of eBay’s total revenue of $3.4 billion.

The company also has had success in the critical mobile market, which has taken on additional importance as more and more e-commerce is done on smartphones. In the most recent quarter, 800,000 of the company’s new users came from mobile as, according to the company, downloads of eBay’s suite of mobile apps have surpassed 100 million globally.

Note: Of the political donations made by Intel Corp. during the 2012 election cycle, half went to Democrats and the other half went to Republicans. Meanwhile, 49 percent of eBay Inc. donations went to Democrats while 51 percent went to Republicans.

3. David Nelms

Company: Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS)

Share price YTD: +63 percent

Discover’s greatest challenge is that it is second in its industry to American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) and competes indirectly with bank cards connected to Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) and MasterCard Inc. (NYSE: MA). Nelms took over as CEO in 2004. One of the most critical strategic moves he made is the takeover of smaller rival Diners Club in early 2008. The consolidation helped keep Discover competitive because it expanded the company’s market share overseas.

More recently, but just as important, is the extent to which Discover has evolved into a lending company, with sizable student and home loan businesses. “Discover Home Loan” was launched in June. Nelms also has buttressed international operations with a deal to move the company more aggressively into China and Russia.

4. Christopher Connor

Company: Sherwin-Williams Co. (NYSE: SHW)

Share price YTD: +63 percent

Connor took over as head of 146-year-old Sherwin-Williams in 1999. Some of the improvement in the company’s performance in the past year could be attributed to luck. The housing market has improved substantially, and Sherwin-Williams has 30 percent of the domestic paint market. The company has used the leverage that its own store network gives it to great advantage. In the most recent quarter, same-store sales rose 8.9 percent.

More impressively, earnings per share (EPS) rose 31.0 percent to a record $2.24. Connor’s most important decision this year was to increase the share of the company’s international operations so that it is not as reliant on the U.S. market. In November, the company announced it would buy Consorcio Comex, based in Mexico, for $2.34 billion. Its business operations in Mexico mirror those of Sherwin-Williams in the U.S. Last year, Comex had revenue of $1.4 billion. Wall St. applauded the decision, driving its share price to a 52-week high within a week of the buyout announcement on November 12.

Note: Of the political donations made by the National Paint & Coatings Assn. during the 2012 election cylce, 100 percent went to Republicans.

And this is how the bottom four CEOs donated their money in 2012:

Meanwhile, 100 percent of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz' & LinkedIn Corp. CEO Jeff Weiner's political contributions ($5,000 apiece) went to individual Democrat candidates.

Click here to see 24/7 Wall St.’s complete list of the best CEOs of 2012.


More from 24/7 Wall St:

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Featured image courtesy Getty Images. This post has been updated.

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