7 Fortune 500 CEOs with an MBA

Sean Campbell
Sean Campbell

12 November 2020 • 6 min read

In a recent article which you can read here, we touched on the enormous potential benefits of studying an MBA -- Master of Business Administration, and how it can be a stepping stone towards one day becoming the CEO of a company. Well, CEOs don’t come much more prolific than those in charge of Fortune 500 companies, so let’s take a look at some of those with MBAs.

But first, let’s dial it back a little and deal with these terms, just in case you’re not quite up to scratch:

First, there’s the CEO, or Chief Executive Officer. It’s a fancy, professional term for the highest ranking individual in the company -- the big cheese. It’s a big job too, as the CEO is responsible for making major decisions, overseeing all business operations, and bridging the gap between staff, board of directors and company shareholders. To add more pressure, the CEO is also the face of the company -- think Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and the like.   

Then there’s the Fortune 500. This one is pretty simple. It’s a ranked list of the largest, most powerful companies in the USA which is compiled annually by eminent magazine Forbes. Three of the current top five companies are Walmart, Amazon, and Apple, who you’ve no doubt heard off. 

Anyway, now that we’ve got the terminology out of the way, let’s take a deeper look at the top Fortune 500 CEOs who hold an MBA. 

Satya Nadella, Microsoft

The Microsoft CEO received his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth in 1996, but in actual fact he’d already worked at Microsoft for a period in 1992. Who knows, perhaps he realised that to rise to the top, he’d have to go back to school to learn a few more things? Well, rise to the top he did. Nadella has now been in charge of Bill Gates’ brainchild since 2014. It’s not his only job either, believe it or not. Nadella is also on the board of directors at coffee giants Starbuck, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, as well as the University of Chicago. No doubt he’s a busy man, but it pays off -- Nadella’s net worth is believed to be a whopping $387 million. 

Mary Barra, General Motors

Frustratingly, Mary Barra is the only female on this list. Indeed, she’s one of only two females CEOs of a top 30 Fortune 500 company. But you know what? The world is ever-changing -- perhaps Barra will have plenty more female company in the next few years. Barra became the first ever female CEO of a major automotive company when got the big job in 2014 . GM isn’t just any old automotive company either, they’re one of the very biggest on the planet. Barra started at the bottom of the GM hierarchy in 1980, before getting a BA in Electrical Engineering and following that up with an MBA from the uber prestigious Stanford University in 1990. Barra makes an annual salary of just over $2 million, but in 2019 she’s believed to have made around $21 million in total, made up of stock awards, options and performance bonuses. 

Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase

Dimon has been the head honcho at the world’s leading financial services company since 2005. Needless to say, the man is absolutely filthy rich, with a net worth of around $1.4 BILLION. He gained his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1982, before turning down jobs at corporate giants Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley in favour of an assistant’s position at American Express. It was all up from there for Dimon, becoming CEO of Bank One in the year 2000. When the company was bought over by JPMorgan Chase in 2004, he was chosen for the role of COO (Chief Operating Officer), before taking the final step up to CEO the following year. 

Jim Farley, Ford Motor Company

Farley is a newcomer to the CEO role, having only been promoted in October 2020. He graduated with an MBA from the University of California, LA in 1989. Until he joined Ford in 2007, he was working as the general manager of Lexus, another major automotive company. Like everyone on this list, Farley makes mega-money, with a base salary of $1.4 million -- a figure which will no doubt rise based on bonuses and stock options. Given that he’s new in the position, it’s difficult to say exactly how much he’ll make, but his predecessor Jim Hackett is thought to have made just under $17.5 million in 2019. 

An interesting tidbit of information to finish: Jim Farley is the cousin of Chris Farley, a very famous man whom you may not actually have heard of… I’m showing my age here, but in the 1990s, Chris Farley was one of Hollywood’s best loved comedians and actors. So there you go!

Tim Cook, Apple

I’ll wager you’ve heard of this guy. If not, you’ve definitely heard of Apple. Indeed, there’s a strong chance you’re reading this article on a device they built! Long before he took over from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011, Cook received an MBA from Duke University Fuqua of Business in 1988. He’s spent his entire career in the computer and tech industry, starting at IBM before spending time at Intelligent Electronic and Compaq. Cook’s figures are pretty astounding, with a personal net worth of around $1 billion, while Apple itself is valued at, wait for it… $2 TRILLION. Yikes.    

Darren Woods, ExxonMobil

Oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil sits at number 2 on the Fortune 500 list, and its CEO has a net worth of approximately $80 million. He’s only been in the position since 2017, but has been involved in the company since 1992, when he first joined as an analyst. Indeed, 1992 was the very same year he graduated with his MBA from the renowned Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Illinois. After spending 13 years climbing the ranks at ExxonMobil, Woods was promoted to Vice President in 2005. It was in this role that he stayed right up until his 2017 ascendancy to the top of the hierarchy. 

Doug McMillon, Walmart

Sitting pretty at Number One on the Fortune 500 since 2013, Walmart is the world’s largest company by revenue, generating over $514 billion dollars in 2019! Doug McMillon has been the CEO since 2014, but he actually started working at Walmart as a teenager during the summer holidays! After going to university, and then getting his MBA from the University of Tulsa in 1991, he rejoined Walmart as an assistant manager.  He’s since climbed all the way to the top of the tree, and makes over $20 million every year!

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Sean Campbell
Written By
Sean Campbell

Sean is a writer, copywriter & editor from Ireland.


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