The 10 Best CEOs of the Past 10 Years: Part 1

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A CEO can make or break a company. Consider Apple's (NAS: AAPL) ascent following Steve Jobs' return from exile in 1996. Or Netflix's (NAS: NFLX) descent following Reed Hastings' late-night email announcing the now-defunct Qwikster service.

Despite the importance, however, it's frustratingly difficult to quantify the value of a CEO's contribution to his or her company. For example, who's to say that Costco's Jim Sinegal is any more or less valuable than Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos?

Enter Chiefist.com.

Chiefist is a new member-based service that seeks to do just that. It analyzes data on CEO compensation and company performance, and then ranks companies according to management quality.

After taking the service for a proverbial test-drive, I wanted to share some of the insights I've gained from it with all of you in outer Fooldom.

What follows is the first in a series of three Chiefist screens aimed at identifying the 10 best CEOs over the past decade.

The screen in this article ranks CEOs according to Chiefist's proprietary share price formula -- which, as I understand it, approximates total share price appreciation for the chosen time period (in this case, the past 10 years). As you'll see in the table below, this list contains a number of both usual and unusual suspects.

As a side note, I also included a column for each company's compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the same time period as a check on the data. While they don't match up exactly, there's no question that all of these CEOs have reigned over massive share price appreciation.

Rank

CEO

Company

Industry

2010 Total Compensation

10-Year CAGR

1Steve Jobs*AppleIT Hardware$145.6%
2John PinkertonRange ResourcesEnergy Exploration$6,633,97737.6%
3Jeff BezosAmazonE-Commerce$1,681,84041.0%
4Lew FrankfortCoach (NYS: COH) Apparel, Accessories, and Luxury Goods$13,739,11032.3%
5Reed HastingsNetflixE-Commerce$5,516,63329.9%**
6Tim SolsoCummins (NYS: CMI) Heavy Equipment$9,111,72730.1%
7John McAdamF5 Networks (NAS: FFIV) IT Hardware$8,884,96227.8%
8Ray IraniOccidental Petroleum (NYS: OXY) Energy$76,107,01025.6%
9Michael McCallisterHumanaInsurance$6,147,91721.7%
10Merrill MillerNational Oilwell Varco (NYS: NOV) Energy Exploration$9,250,87123.6%

Source: Chiefist.com and Yahoo! Finance. *While I'm aware that Steve Jobs is no longer Apple's CEO, I nevertheless deemed it appropriate to include him on the list. **Netflix's CAGR is calculated since its May 2002 IPO.

Foolish bottom line
While our mission here at The Motley Fool is to "educate, amuse, and enrich," we often learn as much from readers as you all learn from us. Let me know what you think about Chiefist's rankings by leaving a comment in the box below. And be sure to let me know if your favorite CEO isn't on the list and the reasons why he/she should be.

At the time this article was published Foolish contributor John Maxfield, J.D., does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of National Oilwell Varco, Apple, Costco, and Coach.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Cummins, Range Resources, National Oilwell Varco, Netflix, Apple, Coach, Amazon.com, and Costco, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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