Did backing “brand CEOs” pays off?

Back in 2008 I started posting about my belief in the power of "brand CEOs": leaders who are the living, breathing embodiment of their brands. And I backed this belief with hard cash, by investing in their companies at times when I thought leadership was critical. 

The brand CEOs I backed, with the time of the blog post and investment in brackets, included:

– Howard Shultz returning as CEO of Starbucks (May 08)

– Steve Jobs and Apple (May 08)

– Ex P&G-er Paul Poleman taking over as CEO of Unilever (Nov 09)

– Dave Lewis joining troubled retailer Tesco (Nov 14)

Seven years on, I was curious about how this investment strategy had paid off.

Below is a graph showing roughly what happened to an investment of £5,000 in each of the brand CEOs at the time of the blog posts I wrote; a total of £30,000. This is compared to investing the same money at the same times, in both the FTSE 100 (top 100 UK companies), the Dow Jones (leading US companies) and a 4% savings account (hard to get).

The results, on a small base of course, do seem to back up the belief in brand CEOs. The Brand CEO portfolio has double the value of the FTSE 100 index. The results would have been even better without Nokia and Blackberry, where I strayed a bit from the strategy. Here, I bet based on the share price being what I thought was rock bottom, rather than the CEOs. In the case of Blackberry I was wrong: the bottom was a lot further down!

So, why do brand CEOs seem to have such a big impact on the businesses they lead? To explore this question, next week we'll look back at the post I wrote on Howard Shultz and Starbucks back in 2008. I'll then do something similar on Steve Jobs and Apple.

I only wish I'd had the balls to add a few zeros to each of the investments… then I would be writing this from a tropical island somewhere 😉

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