News that Steve Jobs was taking a six-month leave of absence from the helm of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to focus on his health was an enlightening moment, not only on Wall Street, but also on Main Street. That’s because everyone from the seasoned trader to the regular Joe realizes that Steve Jobs is the creative genius and driving force behind the iconic personal technology company. In fact, Jobs is essentially synonymous with the Apple brand.
Yet Jobs isn’t the only chief executive out there completely identified with his brand, nor is he alone as the creative and driving force behind his respective company. In fact, there are many more CEOs who exemplify their brands, and who are just as crucial as Jobs to their company’s fortunes.
Here’s a short list of seven such corporate leaders, CEOs who, in effect, are their brands:
Jeff Bezos, Amazon
The chairman and founder of Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) almost single-handedly changed the way we buy books. As Amazon grew, Bezos also changed the way we shop for just about any retail item. In fact, if you’ve ever purchased anything online, that transaction likely shares at least some common DNA with Mr. Bezos’ brilliant e-commerce innovations. In fact, his tremendous success with Amazon has made the company synonymous with online retailing. It also had made him one of the richest men in the world, with an estimated net worth above $12 billion.
Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway
When you’re talking rich, you’re talking Warren Buffett. The head of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRKA) is known as America’s favorite investor, and for good reason. Anyone who can accumulate a fortune of an estimated $47 billion must be on the right track. And while Buffett is synonymous with investing success, his real legacy lies in articulating sound investing principles such as buying companies you understand, looking for well-managed companies with little debt, and investing for the long term.
Larry Ellison, Oracle
Another very rich member of the cadre of CEOs who are their brands is Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) founder Larry Ellison. The flamboyant and flashy Ellison is known for his extravagant personal spending on mega-homes, mega-yachts and multi-million dollar art work, but the spoils of wealth aren’t what Ellison is truly identified with. Rather, he is synonymous with revolutionizing the tech industry by creating the database software nearly every company relies on to help manage operations. When you think of tough, innovative technology leaders, Ellison should be near the top of any list.
Richard Kinder, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners
The founder of energy pipeline company Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (NYSE:KMP) has literally stamped his name on the energy sector. Kinder first became famous for his pre-collapse departure from ill-fated energy firm Enron. He left the company largely because he was suspicious of what he thought was a flawed business model, and of course, his suspicions were dead on. His Enron history, as well as the success of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, has made this high-profile executive synonymous with both the energy sector, and his namesake brand.
Ralph Lauren, Polo Ralph Lauren
He’s a fashion icon whose brand captures the American spirit. Ralph Lauren, founder, designer and CEO of his namesake Polo Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL) is perhaps the most-famous fashion industry executive ever. The genius of Lauren, and what’s made him so successful over the years, is his ability to create clothing and accessories that personify both an upscale, yet accessible lifestyle. The Polo brand, as well as Mr. Lauren’s name and image, have become virtually inextricably linked, making this fashion icon truly synonymous with his brand.
John Mackey, Whole Foods Market
When you think of organic and natural foods sellers, the first name that likely comes to mind is Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFMI). The second name that likely comes to mind is that company’s CEO, John Mackey. The outspoken executive is a true American success story. In the 1970s, he was a college dropout who had no money and no business training. All he had were aspirations to start a natural foods store. Three decades later Mr. Mackey has become synonymous with natural foods, as well as his personal mission of “Conscious Capitalism,” a philosophy of running a business not just for profits, but also with a broader social purpose.
Rupert Murdoch, News Corp.
In political circles, there is perhaps no CEO more hated and loved at the same time than brash News Corp. (NYSE:NWS) chief Rupert Murdoch. The Australia-born media magnate built an empire — and an estimated personal fortune of over $6 billion — providing a bevy of news and entertainment products. But it was Murdoch’s creation of Fox News in 1996 that really put him on the map as a controversial figure synonymous with his brand. Hate him or love him, there’s no denying his brand ID, nor his willingness to stir up the political, media and even social status quo.
At the time of publication, Jim Woods held no positions in stocks mentioned in this article.