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Monday, January 26, 2015 at 4pm

MBA Graduate CEOs of the FT500: MBA News

MBA graduate CEOs in the FT500

Almost a third (31%) of the world’s 500 largest companies by market capitalization are headed by MBAs, as of the start of 2015, according to a new analysis of the Financial Times’ FT500. From this count of CEOs, roughly two-thirds (103) acquired their degree from a school featuring in the publication’s latest MBA rankings.

Can 31% of FT500 companies being led by an MBA graduate be considered a good result for the MBA’s backers? It certainly means that the vast majority are currently led by those without the degree. So, while an MBA is increasing people’s chances of making it all the way to the top, it doesn’t appear to be deemed a prerequisite at most companies.

Supporting this idea was last year’s look at the CEOs of US-based firms from 2014’s Fortune 100, from which less than half (approx. 36%) were found to be MBA graduates of a business school in the US. 

But, at the very top, it seems to be a slightly different story - of the FT500’s top 10 firms, 60% are led by an MBA graduate. These CEOs include Apple’s Tim Cook (MBA graduate of Duke Fuqua), Microsoft’s Satya Nadella (MBA graduate of Chicago Booth) and Johnson & Johnson’s Alex Gorsky (MBA graduate of Wharton).

A similar picture could be found last year, in the Harvard Business Review’s (HBR) 100 best-performing CEOs. When 29% of the full 100 were found to be MBA graduates, it was seen as underwhelming news for the qualification. But, if your focus was solely drawn to the list’s top 10 CEOs then, again, 60% were MBA graduates.

HBS leads list of MBA alumni’s alma maters

In both the HBR and Fortune 100 CEO lists, the business school contributing the highest number of MBA alumni was found to be Harvard Business School (HBS) – and the same is true of the FT’s new list.

From these MBA graduates turned CEOs at FT500 firms, HBS is the most predominant among a number of the usual US suspects. MBA alumni of HBS now helm 28 of the FT500’s listed companies, including Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase.

The group of HBS alumni stands well ahead of those from INSEAD and Stanford GSB, whose count in the FT’s CEO-reckoning number nine and eight respectively.

Three schools – Kellogg, Wharton and Chicago Booth - have six representatives on the list, and a further three can count between three and four MBA alumni among these CEOs – Columbia, NYU Stern and UVA Darden.

Interestingly, only one school from outside of the US – INSEAD – has produced more than two company CEOs in this group. However, from the 26 institutions who have contributed either one or two MBA alumni to the list, we do see more diversity; Canada’s Rotman School of Management and McGill Desautels join five European schools (London Business School, Cass Business School, Cranfield School of Management, HEC Paris, IESE Business School) as well as India’s IIM Ahmedabad, in featuring.

Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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