Ten Smartest C.E.O. Moves of 2007

Every so often the people in the C-suite get something right. Listed below are 10 of the year’s most exceptionally smart choices by corporate chiefs.

Underneath has dropped from the banking business, brokerages are floundering, home foreclosures are soaring, and the risk of recession looms. What better time to inaugurate a listing of the smartest executive moves of the entire year?

Picking the winners is a subjective process, to be certain, and open to a lot of debate. And being smart isn’t exactly like doing the proper thing-though, thankfully, both usually go hand-in-hand.

Appearing on Portfolio.com’s set of the Ten Smartest C.E.O. Moves doesn’t invariably mark an excellent year for anybody. Indeed, being on the list doesn’t mean an honoree is himself is smarter than his peers, just as exclusion isn’t designed to imply the contrary.

But making does imply that the lucky winners were savvy enough-or lucky enough-to avoid embarrassment, make a mint, or simply keep their job.

And, so, our nominees…

1. Pete Peterson of Blackstone Quitting while he was ahead. Okay, so he’s technically not really a C.E.O., but Blackstone Group chairman and cofounder Pete Peterson deserves credit for superb timing in cashing in his chips. Blackstone’s I.P.O. in June came when the firm was at the height of its power — and just on the eve of some major blows to the private equity industry.

Unlike Blackstone C.E.O. Steve Schwarzman, who opted to take a lot of his share in commodity, Peterson walked from the offering with $1.88 billion in cold, income. Hindsight confirms just what a smart move he made: Blackstone shares now trade at only two-thirds of their $31 initial offer price.

2. Steve Jobs of Apple Steering blame to his underlings. Call Steve Jobs the Teflon C.E.O.-while most chief execs have already been serving as target practice for frustrated investors, Jobs and his iconic black turtleneck remain immune to public ire.

After scores of backdated stock option grants found light, Apple Inc.’s board rallied behind Jobs and passed the buck to former General Counsel Nancy Heinen and ex-finance chief Fred Anderson-even after conceding that Jobs have been aware of and mixed up in backdating.

3. Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Having fortuitous timing for share sales. Angelo Mozilo, wily C.E.O. that he’s, were able to net $132 million by selling Countrywide Financial stock before it became public knowledge that half of the lender’s business had evaporated in the first half a year of the entire year.

Mozilo’s luck caught the attention of 1 investor specifically: The state treasurer of NEW YORK, Richard H. Moore. Within an October 8 letter to Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Christopher Cox, Moore wrote: "As an investor and a Countrywide shareholder, I was shocked to discover that C.E.O. Angelo Mozilo apparently manipulated his trading plans to profit, just as the subprime crisis was warming up and Countrywide’s fortunes were cool down."

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating. Mozilo denies impropriety, saying the stock sales were part of a routine group of transactions planned regardless of nonpublic information about the business.

4. Satoru Iwata of Nintendo Beating out Sony and Microsoft with the Wii. Nintendo’s latest entertainment system, the Wii, introduced a forward thinking concept in gaming while rivals made by Sony and Microsoft were still following same exact rules.

Nintendo’s system, which sells for pretty much half the cost of the Xbox 360 or Ps3 3, has seen tremendous successes and a lot more than doubled the business’s sales since it arrived last year.

Holiday sales of the Wii already are off to a breakneck start, and the business warned of shortages as the Christmas holiday approached.

5. Robert Nardelli of Chrysler Persuading you to definitely hire him so quickly. One would believe that Robert Nardelli will be stuck reading the "Help Wanted" section for some time following his ignominious ouster from your home Depot. In the end, an embarrassingly bloated pay package, poor stock performance, and abysmal shareholder relations aren’t exactly resume gold.

However in August, Cerberus made the surprising announcement that Nardelli would replace Thomas LaSorda as C.E.O. of Chrysler. However, Cerberus has learned from your home Depot’s mistakes-Nardelli’s base salary will be $1, and all compensation will be performance based.

6. Michael Dell of Dell Computer Taking matters into his own hands … again. In the 3 years since Michael Dell turned his company, Dell Computer. to Kevin Rollins, it began missing earnings, lost its lead in the P.C. market to Hewlett-Packard, and saw the beginning of an S.E.C. investigation for possible accounting improprieties.

It was, to state the least, a distressing position for a company that until 2004 was mowing down its rivals as numero uno in P.C. sales, and gaining market share. So in January, Dell stepped back to the C.E.O. seat to repair what Rollins had broken.

7. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs Seeing the subprime meltdown coming. Some of Wall Street was on the ropes third , summer’s market meltdown, Goldman Sachs suffered nary a blow. Why? Under Lloyd Blankfein’s leadrship, the business had an excellent hedging strategy before the subprime meltdown, choosing to short C.D.O.’s together with sell them.

Some individuals are crying foul now, citing Goldman’s well-known tendency to be on both sides of all really lucrative ventures, but that’s just sour grapes.

8. Richard Grasso of the NYSE Tirelessly defending that ridiculous pay package. If first you do not succeed, try, try again…. Richard Grasso scored a significant win for greedy executives everywhere when he turned the tables in the fight for his outsized compensation package.

Efforts by Eliot Spitzer, New York’s attorney general at that time, to block Grasso from extracting $187.5 million in pay from the brand new York STOCK MARKET (strictly speaking a nonprofit organization at that time, now a for-profit company called NYSE Euronext) were successful in lower courts, however in May Grasso got an appeals court to get rid of four of the six charges.

9. Jack Weil of Rockmount Ranch Wear Being able to hold on as C.E.O. 61 years. "Papa Jack" Weil founded Denver-based apparel company Rockmount Ranch Wear in 1946, and he remains C.E.O. even today.

At 106, Weil may be the oldest chief exec in the united states and rumor has it he still would go to work each day. Which is a lot more than you can say for James Cayne.

10. Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil Deciding on a good time to be C.E.O. When Lee Raymond stepped down as C.E.O. of Exxon Mobil in April of 2006, Rex Tillerson inherited a company that was virtually printing money. Oil prices have significantly more than tripled since 2005, now within sight of $100 a barrel, and Exxon has managed record-breaking profits due to this fact.

Because of refinery bottlenecks, shaky geopolitics, and federal tax breaks, Tillerson hasn’t had to accomplish much beyond cash his check rather than touch the controls.

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