The question of the decade has been whether one needs an MBA to get ahead and make the big bucks. Judging from the list of top-paid U.S. chief executives with MBA degrees, the degree might not seem necessary, but it can’t hurt either. The following 25 CEOs have survived the Great Recession, expanded sometimes struggling businesses, and were all armed with an MBA. Although many of them come from the likes of Harvard and Columbia business schools, there are also many who graduated from second- or third-tier programs. Here, meet and get to know the CEO MBAs with the fattest wallets.


Methodology: The list was compiled by Equilar, a executive compensation research firm, based on an analysis of companies reporting CEO compensation as of Nov. 19. It was limited to companies with revenue greater than $1 billion in their most recent fiscal year. Total compensation includes salary, cash bonus, and other compensation, such as perks, as well as the grant-date fair value of options and the grant-date present value of stock awarded in the most recent fiscal year. Take-home pay includes salary, cash bonus, and other compensation, such as perks, plus any value realized by the vesting of previously awarded stock or from the exercise of previously awarded options.

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The question of the decade has been whether one needs an MBA to get ahead and make the big bucks. Judging from the list of top-paid U.S. chief executives with MBA degrees, the degree might not seem necessary, but it can’t hurt either. The following 25 CEOs have survived the Great Recession, expanded sometimes struggling businesses, and were all armed with an MBA. Although many of them come from the likes of Harvard and Columbia business schools, there are also many who graduated from second- or third-tier programs. Here, meet and get to know the CEO MBAs with the fattest wallets.


Methodology: The list was compiled by Equilar, a executive compensation research firm, based on an analysis of companies reporting CEO compensation as of Nov. 19. It was limited to companies with revenue greater than $1 billion in their most recent fiscal year. Total compensation includes salary, cash bonus, and other compensation, such as perks, as well as the grant-date fair value of options and the grant-date present value of stock awarded in the most recent fiscal year. Take-home pay includes salary, cash bonus, and other compensation, such as perks, plus any value realized by the vesting of previously awarded stock or from the exercise of previously awarded options.

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25 Highest Paid CEOs with MBAs

For Top Executives, B-School Pays Off
For Top Executives, B-School Pays Off

The question of the decade has been whether one needs an MBA to get ahead and make the big bucks. Judging from the list of top-paid U.S. chief executives with MBA degrees, the degree might not seem necessary, but it can’t hurt either. The following 25 CEOs have survived the Great Recession, expanded sometimes struggling businesses, and were all armed with an MBA. Although many of them come from the likes of Harvard and Columbia business schools, there are also many who graduated from second- or third-tier programs. Here, meet and get to know the CEO MBAs with the fattest wallets.


Methodology: The list was compiled by Equilar, a executive compensation research firm, based on an analysis of companies reporting CEO compensation as of Nov. 19. It was limited to companies with revenue greater than $1 billion in their most recent fiscal year. Total compensation includes salary, cash bonus, and other compensation, such as perks, as well as the grant-date fair value of options and the grant-date present value of stock awarded in the most recent fiscal year. Take-home pay includes salary, cash bonus, and other compensation, such as perks, plus any value realized by the vesting of previously awarded stock or from the exercise of previously awarded options.

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1. Gregory B. Maffei
1. Gregory B. Maffei

Title: President and CEO, Liberty Media (LINTA)
MBA: Harvard Business School
Total Compensation: $87,489,469
Take-Home Pay: $11,472,508


Career Highlights: Maffei graduated from Harvard in 1986. Since then he has been president and chief financial officer of Oracle, CEO of 360networks, CFO of Microsoft, and chairman of Expedia. Maffei is also a director of Electronic Arts, SIRIUS XM Radio, 360networks, and zillow.com. After he became chief of Liberty Media in 2006, the company bought a 40 percent stake in SIRIUS XM Radio in exchange for $530 million in loans to help the pay-radio company avoid bankruptcy and spun off its 54 percent stake in the satellite television company DirecTV into a new company.

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2. Michael S. Jeffries
2. Michael S. Jeffries

Title: Chairman and CEO, Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF)
MBA: Columbia Business School
Total Compensation: $36,320,099
Take-Home Pay: $3,436,975


Career Highlights: After earning his MBA from Columbia Business School in 1968, Jeffries joined the management training program at the now-defunct Abraham & Straus, which was a division of Federated Department Stores. In 1980, Jeffries founded the retail chain Alcott & Andrews, which went bankrupt in three years. Jeffries became CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch in 1992 and took the company public in 1996. Using racy ads and having a say in everything the company does, Jeffries "built the ailing brand into a multibillion-dollar enterprise by casting out its fly-fishing heritage and focusing on teen apparel," according to Women's Wear Daily.

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3. Marc N. Casper
3. Marc N. Casper

Title: President and CEO, Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO)
MBA: Harvard Business School
Total Compensation: $34,123,808
Take-Home Pay: $2,601,965


Career Highlights: Having earned an MBA with high distinction from Harvard Business School, Casper launched his career at Bain & Co., where he was a strategy consultant before moving to Bain Capital. He later went on to become president of the Americas for Dade Behring, a health-care diagnostics company since acquired by Siemens, and president, CEO, and a director of Kendro Laboratory Products. At the start of his tenure at Thermo Fisher Scientific in 2001, Casper was president of the Life and Laboratory Sciences sector. After holding different positions through the years, including senior vice-president and chief operating officer, Casper became the company's president and CEO in October 2009.

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4. John Hammergren
4. John Hammergren

Title: Chairman, president, and CEO, McKesson (MCK)
MBA: Xavier University
Total Compensation: $33,912,280
Take-Home Pay: $32,459,896


Career Highlights: Hammergren spent the early days of his career in the medical-surgical division of Kendall Health Care Products and held down a series of general management positions at Baxter Health Care/American Hospital Supply and Fujisawa Health Care. He joined McKesson in 1996. He has been a director since 1999, president and CEO since 2001, and chairman since 2002. In 2008, Hammergren wrote the book Skin In the Game about the history of the health-care system and what's to come in the near future, and by 2009 he was named chairman of the Healthcare Leadership Council. McKesson credits him with doubling its revenue to $108.7 billion and expanding into new markets.

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5. Glen T. Senk
5. Glen T. Senk

Title: CEO, Urban Outfitters (URBN)
MBA: University of Chicago
Total Compensation: $29,944,180
Take-Home Pay: $3,012,276


Career Highlights: As a young man, Senk had several show horses and was a rider. As he recalled in a 2009 New York Times article, he eventually turned his pastime into a business that helped pay for his education. His first job after the Chicago MBA program was as an assistant buyer for Bloomingdale's. He ended his tenure at Bloomingdale's as senior vice-president and managing director of Bloomingdale's By Mail. He then became an executive at Habitat, a home furnishings company in London. After a stint as head merchant for all five of Williams-Sonoma's businesses, he started raising money for his own food business. During this time, Senk, determined to launch a startup, turned down his first offer to join Urban Outfitters, according to the Times article. When he realized he was not so great at fund-raising, he returned his investors' money and became president of Anthropologie for Urban Outfitters. In 2007, he became CEO of the company.

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6. James T. Hackett
6. James T. Hackett

Title: President and CEO, Anadarko Petroleum (APC)
MBA: Harvard Business School
Total Compensation: $23,510,401
Take-Home Pay: $20,900,089


Career Highlights: After Harvard, Hackett held leadership positions at Duke Energy and Amoco Oil, among others. Starting as chief operating officer of Devon Energy, he was named president and CEO of Ocean Energy when the two companies merged in 2003. He has been with Anadarko Petroleum since 2003, when he was named president, CEO, and a director of the company. He has recently come under attack by critics, especially in the blogosphere, because Anadarko purchased a 25 percent stake in BP’s Macondo well, which experienced a deadly accident in April 2010 that caused a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Anadarko refuses to pay $2.6 billion in invoices from BP for the cleanup and other oil spill costs.

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7. Miles D. White
7. Miles D. White

Title: Chairman and CEO, Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
MBA: Stanford University
Total Compensation: $21,927,989
Take-Home Pay: $15,220,469


Career Highlights: White earned both his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and his MBA at Stanford University. Before joining Abbott in 1984, he was a management consultant at McKinsey. He was named CEO of Abbott in 1998 and became chairman of the board in 1999. On White’s watch, profits have doubled in the past 10 years and the stock price went up about 75 percent, which was better than all other major drug companies except Johnson & Johnson earlier in 2010, according to Barron’s, which included him on its list of best CEOs of the year.

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8. Robert J. Stevens
8. Robert J. Stevens

Title: Chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin (LMT)
MBA: Columbia Business School
Total Compensation: $20,473,451
Take-Home Pay: $14,632,131


Career Highlights: With a master's degree in engineering and management from Polytechnic University of New York in addition to his MBA from Columbia, Stevens has held the roles of chief financial officer and head of strategic planning at Lockheed Martin, where he's now chairman and CEO. Having served in the U.S. Marine Corps, Stevens was on President George W. Bush's Commission to Examine the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry. Recently Stevens announced that Lockheed Martin's F-35 jet fighter, the most expensive U.S. weapons program in history, will likely take longer and cost more than expected to finish.

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9. Richard C. Adkerson
9. Richard C. Adkerson

Title: President and CEO, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX)
MBA: Mississippi State University
Total Compensation: $20,088,223
Take-Home Pay: $25,287,466


Career Highlights: In 1970, Adkerson launched his career in public accounting, having completed his MBA at Mississippi State. He has been executive vice-president and chief financial officer of Freeport-McMoRan and CEO of McMoRan Exploration. In the past decade Adkerson has taken on the roles of president and CEO at Freeport-McMoRan and of executive vice-president at PT Freeport Indonesia, a subsidiary. Adkerson recently announced the company would be generating operating cash flow of $6 billion and plans to increase spending on new projects to boost output, according to Reuters.

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10. Jeffrey L. Bewkes
10. Jeffrey L. Bewkes

Title: Chairman and CEO, Time Warner (TWX)
MBA: Stanford University
Total Compensation: $19,377,714
Take-Home Pay: $15,311,214


Career Highlights: After completing the MBA program at Stanford, Bewkes joined Citibank but moved on to HBO's sales and marketing department in June 1979. He served as chairman, president, chief operating officer, and CEO of HBO, where he is credited with giving the green light to The Sopranos, one of cable TV's biggest successes. Before becoming Time Warner's CEO in 2008 and chairman in 2009, he was chairman of the Entertainment and Networks Group and president and COO of the company. Having to lead Time Warner after its failed merger with AOL, widely considered the worst business deal in U.S. history, Bewkes spun off Time Warner's cable operation and its AOL online unit.

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11. John T. Chambers
11. John T. Chambers

Title: Chairman and CEO, Cisco Systems (CSCO)
MBA: Indiana University
Total Compensation: $18,871,875
Take-Home Pay: $37,896,888


Career Highlights: Chambers graduated from the Indiana MBA program in 1975 and worked for IBM and Wang Laboratories before joining Cisco in 1991. In 2006 he became chairman of the board for the company, too. He has helped expand the company from $1.2 billion in annual revenue when he assumed the role of CEO in 1995 to $40 billion today, according to the company. Chambers has been vice-chairman of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council and a member of President George W. Bush's transition team and education committee and of President Bill Clinton's Trade Policy Committee.

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12. John G. Stumpf
12. John G. Stumpf

Title: Chairman, president, and CEO, Wells Fargo (WFC)
MBA: University of Minnesota
Total Compensation: $18,756,172
Take-Home Pay: $5,672,786


Career Highlights: Stumpf has spent most of his career at Wells Fargo—which he joined in 1982, when it was still called Norwest—in the loan administration department. Before signing on as CEO in June 2007 and as chairman in January 2010, he led the integration of Wells Fargo's acquisition of First Security in 2000. In December 2008, Stumpf led one of the largest mergers in the company's history with the purchase of Wachovia.

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13. James M. Cracchiolo
13. James M. Cracchiolo

Title: Chairman and CEO, Ameriprise Financial (AMP)
MBA: New York University
Total Compensation: $18,214,764
Take-Home Pay: $10,224,454


Career Highlights: Cracchiolo has 25 years of experience in global financial services under his belt. His titles at American Express have included chairman of American Express Bank, president and CEO of Travel Related Services International, and executive vice-president and chief financial officer of Shearson Lehman Brothers. Cracchiolo became chairman and CEO of Ameriprise Financial in 2005, when American Express completed the spin-off of American Express Financial Advisors. Cracchiolo has led Ameriprise's transformation into one of the world’s biggest money managers. Shares in the company were up 34 percent for the year as of Nov. 24.

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14. Ivan G. Seidenberg
14. Ivan G. Seidenberg

Title: CEO, Verizon Communications (VZ)
MBA: Pace University
Total Compensation: $17,012,407
Take-Home Pay: $30,933,407


Career Highlights: Launching his career more than 38 years ago as an assistant to a cable splicer, Seidenberg has held various positions, including chief executive of Bell Atlantic and Nynex. He is credited with reshaping the communications industry by leading two of the largest mergers in history—the one that joined Bell Atlantic and Nynex in 1997 and the marriage of Bell Atlantic and GTE in 2000. At Verizon, he has worked as president, co-chief executive, and chief executive. He has been CEO of the company since April 2002 and chairman since 2003. Seidenberg led the efforts in 1999 to form Verizon Wireless.

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15. James M. Cornelius
15. James M. Cornelius

Title: Retired CEO, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY)
MBA: Michigan State University
Total Compensation: $17,002,765
Take-Home Pay: $14,709,726


Career Highlights: Although Cornelius retired on May 4, leaving Bristol-Myers Squibb in the hands of Lamberto Andreotti, he has a long and successful career behind him. He spent 28 years at Eli Lilly, where he was chief financial officer and a board member. At Guidant, he was interim chief executive and chairman. As a board member of Bristol-Myers Squibb, he came out of retirement to lead the company when predecessor Peter Dolan was plagued by accounting scandals and attempts to keep generics off the market. Cornelius has been CEO at Bristol-Myers Squibb since 2006 and chairman since 2008. He will maintain his role as chairman, and he helped prepare the company for the future, when its blockbuster blood-thinner Plavix goes off patent in the next year or so. He is also credited with making the company far leaner, with fewer employees and a renewed focus on rare diseases, which are treated with more expensive medication.

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16. Susan M. Ivey
16. Susan M. Ivey

Title: CEO, Reynolds American (RAI)
MBA: Bellarmine University
Total Compensation: $16,214,655
Take-Home Pay: $11,750,112


Career Highlights: After earning her MBA at Bellarmine University in 1987, Ivey built a career in tobacco that had her moving up to become president and chief executive at Brown & Williamson Tobacco, which was purchased by Reynolds American in 2003. She has been CEO of Reynolds American since 2004 and chairman since 2006. Ivey announced in October that she would be retiring on Feb. 28. During her tenure as CEO, Ivey stepped up the marketing of Camel and Pall Mall cigarettes and pushed for smokeless tobacco products.

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17. Laurence D. Fink
17. Laurence D. Fink

Title: Co-founder, chairman, and CEO, BlackRock (BLK)
MBA: UCLA
Total Compensation: $15,859,416
Take-Home Pay: $19,310,994


Career Highlights: Fink earned his MBA from UCLA in 1976 and joined First Boston after graduation. He became managing director and one of the first mortgage-backed securities traders on Wall Street. In 1988, he founded BlackRock, now among the world's biggest asset management firms. Recently, BlackRock stakeholders Bank of America and PNC Financial Services Group sold $8.3 billion of stock in the company. BlackRock shares are down 29 percent in 2010.

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18. Glenn A. Britt
18. Glenn A. Britt

Title: Chairman and CEO, Time Warner Cable (TWC)
MBA: Dartmouth College
Total Compensation: $15,762,297
Take-Home Pay: $8,547,286


Career Highlights: After earning his MBA from Dartmouth in 1972, Britt joined Time Inc. in the controller’s department. Before the merger of Time and Warner Communications in 1989, Britt was a vice-president and chief financial officer of Time. Through the years, he has been executive vice-president of Time Warner Cable and senior vice-president and treasurer of the parent Time Warner. He also oversaw the launch of the company’s Road Runner high-speed internet service and creation of Time Warner Telecom, a telecommunications provider. In 2001, Britt became CEO of Time Warner Cable. He is behind the company’s aggressive deployment of its broadband network and advanced video services, including video on demand, high-definition TV, and digital video recorders.

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19. William J. Lynch Jr.
19. William J. Lynch Jr.

Title: CEO, Barnes & Noble (BKS)
MBA: Columbia Business School
Total Compensation: $15,709,965
Take-Home Pay: $2,299,965


Career Highlights: Having begun his career with brand management gigs at Seagram Universal and Guinness, Lynch has also held positions at HSNi, where he was executive vice-president for marketing and general manager of HSN.com, and at Palm, where he was a vice-president and general manager. From 2004 to 2008, he was CEO and co-founder of gifts.com. In March 2010, Barnes & Noble named Lynch its CEO. He had previously been president of Barnes & Noble’s online business.

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20. John R. Strangfeld Jr.
20. John R. Strangfeld Jr.

Title: Chairman, president, and CEO, Prudential Financial (PRU)
MBA: University of Virginia
Total Compensation: $15,571,014
Take-Home Pay: $10,212,122


Career Highlights: Since joining Prudential in 1977, Strangfeld has held many positions, including executive in charge of Prudential’s Global Asset Management Group and senior managing director of the Private Asset Management Group. Strangfeld is a member of the Raven Society, the oldest and most prestigious honorary society at the University of Virginia. He continues to support an effort to recruit and provide scholarships to military officers who want to pursue an MBA at Virginia's Darden School of Business to integrate into civilian life.

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21. Kevin W. Sharer
21. Kevin W. Sharer

Title: Chairman, president, and CEO, Amgen (AMGN)
MBA: University of Pittsburgh
Total Compensation: $15,345,717
Take-Home Pay: $6,710,616


Career Highlights: In addition to his MBA from the University of Pittsburgh, Sharer earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. He also served on two nuclear attack submarines following graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. Before joining Amgen, he was a consultant at McKinsey, held various executive roles at General Electric, and was president of the business markets division of MCI Communications.

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22. Donald E. Washkewicz
22. Donald E. Washkewicz

Title: Chairman, president, and CEO, Parker-Hannifin (PH)
MBA: Case Western Reserve University
Total Compensation: $15,296,104
Take-Home Pay: $23,884,001


Career Highlights: Washkewicz launched his career when he joined Parker-Hannifin in 1972 as an engineer in its Hose Products Division. He has held the titles of manager of research and development and general manager of the Parflex Division. A licensed professional engineer in Ohio, Washkewicz is a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers. As CEO, a position he has held since 2001, he is credited with helping to lower costs and to spark a profit surge in 2010, according to Crain’s Cleveland Business. In 2002, Case Western's business school, the Weatherhead School of Management, gave Washkewicz the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

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23. James E. Rohr
23. James E. Rohr

Title: Chairman and CEO, PNC Financial Services Group (PNC)
MBA: Ohio State University
Total Compensation: $14,801,881
Take-Home Pay: $9,913,097


Career Highlights: After earning his MBA at Ohio State in 1972, Rohr signed on with PNC’s management development program. Through the years he took on various marketing and management responsibilities in such corporate banking areas as lending, treasury management services, and merchant banking. In 1998, Rohr became chief operating officer. He was named CEO in 2000 and chairman in 2001.

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24. William R. Johnson
24. William R. Johnson

Title: Chairman, president, and CEO, H.J. Heinz (HNZ)
MBA: University of Texas at Austin
Total Compensation: $14,895,020
Take-Home Pay: $19,015,552


Career Highlights: Before joining Heinz, Johnson was employed by Drackett, Ralston Purina and Anderson-Clayton. He started his tenure at Heinz in 1982 as general manager of new businesses for Heinz U.S.A. He has served as vice-president for marketing of ketchup, food service, and sauces and as chief operating officer. In 1998 he took on the roles of president and CEO, adding the title of chairman in 2000. Heinz, with 50 companies that have brands in more than 200 countries, reported more than $10 billion in sales in the fiscal year ended last April. In 2007, Johnson was inducted into the McCombs School Hall of Fame at the University of Texas at Austin.

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25. George S. Barrett
25. George S. Barrett

Title: Chairman and CEO, Cardinal Health (CAH)
MBA: New York University
Total Compensation: $14,702,082
Take-Home Pay: $5,604,677


Career Highlights: Barrett earned his MBA at NYU in 1988. From 1981 to 1991 he held various positions with NMC Laboratories, a Glendale (N.Y.) specialty pharmaceutical company. He has been president and CEO of Diad Research, a technology startup at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and president and CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. In September 2009, he took on the role of chairman and CEO of Cardinal Health. On Nov. 29 the company announced it had completed a $470 million acquisition of Zuellig Pharma China, the largest pharmaceutical importer in China. The company also recently announced plans to acquire drug distributer Kinray.

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