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Tuck School of Business Professor Releases Annual Picks for Best and Worst CEOs

sydney finkelstein‘Tis the season to reflect on the year’s best and worst CEOs. Tuck School of Business Professor of Management Sydney Finkelstein has been making a list and checking it twice since 2010, sharing with the public his picks for which CEOs have excelled in the prior year and which have tanked.

This year’s losers include the CEOs of Twitter, Sears Holding, Tesco, American Apparel and Banco Espírito Santo. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is not helping the company fulfill its potential, Finkelstein says, noting that shares have dropped by 42 percent and monthly active users have slowed. Sears Holdings CEO Eddie Lampert made the list for the second year running, for what Finkelstein deemed failed strategy, arrogant leadership and Sears’ rapidly dropping stock price.

But Banco Espírito Santo (BES) CEO Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva Salgado wins the dubious designation as Finkelstein’s worst CEO of 2014 for bringing the second-biggest bank in Portugal to bankruptcy. Not only did BES see a $4.5 billion loss during the first half of 2014, Finkelstein also cited allegations of fraud, complicated intertwining ownership stakes among family-controlled enterprises and the forced $6 billion bailout of BES by Portugal as securing Salgado’s spot at the top of the worst list.

Finkelstein’s motivations in culling his annual lists are not simply to be snide. “People often say they learn from their mistakes,” he said in a statement. “Drawing attention to prominent CEOs who have stumbled is another way to learn, for all of us, about what works and doesn’t when it comes to leadership.”

Last year was the first year Finkelstein chose to recognize the year’s best CEOs, along with its worst. Doing so again this year, he picked the CEOs of Electronic Arts, Gilead Science, Alibaba, Under Armour and Tesla/Space X as getting it really right in 2014. Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts, led a turnaround Finkelstein called “incredible.” Named Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” in 2012 and 2013, Electronic Arts’ stock prices is up 96 percent this year under Wilson’s leadership.

Topping the list of best CEOs of 2014 was Elon Musk, who heads both Tesla and Space X. “2014 was an impressive year for Elon Musk as he led two companies on big growth trajectories,” Finkelstein said in a statement. “In addition to Tesla’s stock price increasing 38 percent year to date after rising 344 percent in 2013, SpaceX made a number of successful trips to space and won important government contracts.”

View Tuck Professor Finkelstein’s complete picks for best and worst CEOs of 2014.