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The top 10 best-performing CEOs

October 17, 2014, 7:29 PM UTC
contract armin Harris. Credit: Kyle Bean for Fortune
Kyle Bean for Fortune

Harvard Business Review released its 2014 list of top-performing chief executives Friday, and some of the leaders that make the list may surprise you.

Yes, there are some celebrity CEOs, particularly from the technology industry. But many are hardly household names from companies in pharmaceuticals, real estate and mining.

HBR’s based its rankings on gains companies made over the long-term. Criteria included total shareholder return (adjusted for country and industry performance in order to account for rising fortunes of the national market or industry as a whole), market capitalization (measured in inflation-adjusted U.S. dollars).

Only CEOs from S&P Global 1200 index who had assumed their posts between 1995 and April 30, 2012. Their performance was measured over the entirety of their tenure. (More details are outlined under “How we calculated the rankings” here.)

These rankings don’t reflect more fuzzy criteria like social responsibility and environmental awareness, though HBR looked at CEO value on those measures separately.

Here’s the best of the best.

1. Jeffrey Bezos, Amazon

Bezos founded the Internet retailer in 1996, and has overseen a nearly $140 billion gain in Amazon's (AMZN) market value during his tenure. Not only that, but over that period, the company posted almost 15,000% shareholder return when industry adjusted.

Interestingly, Bezos is one of the lowest paid leaders on the list, at number 99. His salary last year was $81,000 and total compensation was $1.7 million when adding in stock. This doesn't take into account his 18% stake in Amazon, or its effect on his total net worth. Every $1 increase in Amazon's share price adds $84 million to his personal worth.

2. John Martin, Gilead Sciences

John Martin, CEO of Gilead Sciences

Martin has lead Gilead Sciences since 1996 and overseen a $128 billion gain in the biotech company's market value. It is now the second-most-valuable independent biotech company after Amgen. Gilead Sciences may see even more growth ahead after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its new Hepatitis C drug earlier this month.

3. John Chambers, Cisco Systems

Chambers has led computer networking giant Cisco Systems since 1995. During his almost 20-year tenure, the company's market value has grown by $168 billion. Chambers made a tough leadership call in August, announcing the company will cut 6,500 jobs, or around 8% of its workforce, despite strong financial results.

Chambers is the highest paid of the top 10 executives. His total annual compensation is over $21 million, according to data from Equilar.

4. David Pyott, Allergan

Pyott has helmed pharmaceutical-maker Allergan since 1998, overseeing $50 billion in market value growth and almost 2,000% shareholder return. He has been fighting off a hostile takeover by Valeant Pharmaceuticals, another company with a top 10 chief executive. Pyott helped transform Allergan from an eye-care business to a global pharmaceutical developer and the fastest growing opthalmic company.

5. David Simon, Simon Property Group

Simon took over the chief executive role of his father's company in 1995. Since then, real estate developer Simon Property Group has gained $63 billion in market value and returned about 1,600% to shareholders, when adjusted for industry performance. Simon is positioning the company for further growth after spinning off its portfolio of strip-mall centers and small malls earlier this year to focus more on higher-end retail.

6. Lars Rebien Sorensen, Novo Nordisk

Sorensen started as CEO of drug-maker Novo Nordisk in 2000, almost 18 years after he initially started at the company in the marketing department. Since he took over the lead role, Novo Nordisk has added $101 billion to its market value and delivered over 1,200% shareholder return, industry adjusted. Sorensen has focused the drug maker on metabolic disorders and diabetes, which are illnesses that are growing worldwide. He also invested $100 million to create the World Diabetes Foundation and committed to providing insulin 20% below its standard price to people in developing countries.

7. Hugh Grant, Monsanto

Grant was promoted to CEO in 2003, only of his many roles at the agricultural biotech giant. He started his career at the company in 1981 when he got his first job selling Roundup brand weed killer to Scottish farmers. He's a Monsanto "lifer" and has since worked in marketing, sales and technology operations across four continents. Since 2003, he has added $59 billion to the company's market value and boosted shareholder returns 800%, industry adjusted.

8. J. Michael Pearson, Valeant Pharmaceuticals

Pearson is the shortest-tenured CEO to make the top 10. He has served in the lead role at drug-maker Valeant Pharmaceuticals since 2008. Over the past six years, he has boosted the company's market value by $44 billion and posted a 1,100% shareholder return, industry adjusted. Pearson has been making a hostile bid to take over U.S.-based Allergan in a tax-inversion deal (a maneuver designed to lower taxes), which would add to the nearly 40 mergers executed under his leadership.

9. Mark Donegan, Precision Castparts

Donegan stepped into the lead role at metal-fabrication company Precision Castparts in 2002 and has since reigned over a $34 billion gain in the company's market value and over 1,600% lift in shareholder value, industry adjusted. Perhaps the least well known of the top 10, Donegan joined Precision Castparts in 1985, eventually rising to chief operating officer, then president and eventually adding chairman to his title.

10. William Doyle, PotashCorp

Doyle has headed PotashCorp since 1999 and overseen market value growth of $37 billion and total shareholder returns of over 1,100%, industry adjusted. The Canada-based company is the world's largest producer of potash, a type of potassium-containing salt used in fertilizers and industrial processes. Doyle, who has been with the company since 1987, will step down from the lead role this year, and the former CEO of Inmet Mining Corp. Jochen Tilk will take his place.