Top 10 Political CEOs

DATE: February 1, 2012

With the Florida primaries now under Mitt Romney’s belt, the former CEO of Bain Capital is the favorite to win the Republican nomination. But can a man from the private sector go all the way?

We’ve put together this list of Top Ten Political CEOs – leaders from Wall Street and Main Street – all who are making their voices heard in the circles of state and federal government.  Some have succeeded, some have failed, and some are just getting started…

Michael Bloomberg

Former CEO of Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg In 2001, Michael Bloomberg stepped down as CEO from the company he founded – a company that made him a billionaire (what was its creative name, again?) – to enter the race for mayor of New York City.

With the help of Rudy Giuliani’s endorsement, Bloomberg beat out Democrat Mark Green in the bid for Gracie Mansion. Easily re-elected in 2005, he not only served a second term, but convinced the City Council to extend New York’s term limits and is now serving a third term.

With mobs of protestors swarming the city, Bloomberg has not only had his hands full, but recently had his streets occupied as well.

Howard Schultz

CEO of Starbucks
HowardImage: Thomas Veneklasen First, let’s do everyone a favor and skip the cliché references to “brewing,” “cup of tea,” and “wake up and smell the coffee.”

Though never having formally entered politics, the billionaire CEO of Starbucks has quickly become one of the business world’s most outspoken critics of the ineptitude in Washington.

After one of the most embarrassing gridlocks in recent history, in which the White House and the House of Representatives brought the United States to the brink of default, Howard Schultz spearheaded a boycott against all political donations.

With over 150 business leaders joining his cause, Schultz continues to lead the effort to freeze these contributions until a bipartisan debt reduction deal is agreed upon by Congress.


Meg Whitman

CEO of HP, Former CEO of Ebay
Meg WhitmanImage: Inland Politics Before taking the reigns at the dysfunctional Hewlett-Packard, Meg Whitman invested heavily in her 2010 campaign for California governor.

It seemed all signs pointed in Whitman’s favor: Republican fever was in the air, she was running against an over-the-hill opponent, and Whitman had a massive treasure chest from her days as CEO of eBay.

However, despite shelling out a record-breaking $160 million during her Gubernatorial campaign, Whitman lost the election. Apparently spending this much money on your campaign while advocating fiscal conservatism turns off voters.

Carly Fiorina

Former CEO of HP
Carly FiorinaImage: SF Gate Whitman wasn’t the only HP executive who took a shot at politics in 2010. After getting the boot from Hewlett-Packard in 2005, former CEO Carly Fiorina ran for a seat in the Senate.

Several years since her oust at Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina’s bid for California Senator was not an easy one.  Extreme conservatives stuck her with the RINO (Republican In Name Only) label, while moderate Californians objected to her endorsement by right-wing Sarah Palin.  Ultimately, Fiorina lost the election to incumbent Barbara Boxer.

And if you haven’t seen her infamous “demon sheep” ad from the primaries, you really should.

Donald Trump

CEO of The Trump Organization
Donald TrumpImage: Now Public As chairman and president of the Trump Organization, Donald Trump has enjoyed more time than most in the public spotlight, usually in the form of a rant.

Having considered running for President of the United States since 2000, Trump has gone back and forth without ever formally throwing his hat in the ring.  Early in the summer of 2011, Trump came extremely close to running, blaming the current leadership for making America “the laughingstock of the world.”

After publicly calling for Pres. Obama’s birth certificate, and taking “pride” in its eventual release, Trump decided not to run in 2012.  Then again, he might.  Then again, he might not.  Then again, he might.  Then again, he might not.  Then again, he might.  Then again, he might not.  Then again, he might

Jon Corzine

Former CEO of Goldman Sachs and MF Global
Jon CorzineImage: Star-Ledger After being forced out of Goldman Sachs in 1999, Jon Corzine decided to try his luck in politics.

After serving a term as a New Jersey Senator, Corzine won the Gubernatorial election in 2006.  During his first year as governor, Corzine clashed with the legislature when it came to balancing the state’s budget, resulting in a statewide government shutdown for six days, costing New Jersey millions of dollars each day. When it came time for re-election in 2010, Corzine himself was shut down by a Republican challenger by the name of Chris Christie.

Following his political career, Corzine became CEO of MF Global Holdings, which recently announced its biggest quarterly loss ever, followed by bankruptcy, followed by an investigation by the FBI, followed by Corzine’s resignation, followed by a subpoena from Congress.

…And you thought he couldn’t be U.S. Treasury Secretary.

Jeff Immelt

David WestImage: GE General Electric’s CEO served nearly two years on the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board before it – went out of business? – and was replaced by the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

As head of the new Council, Immelt has managed to irritate both the left and the right as the line between his representation of the federal government and his representation of GE has continued to remain blurry.

Sending GE jobs over to the Chinese wasn’t exactly a recipe for popularity, either, but hey, you can’t please everybody.

Mark Warner

Founding Partner of Columbia Capital
Mark WarnerImage: Now Public Investing in a number of technologies, and making a fortune in cell phones, Mark Warner first ran for Virginia Senator in 1996 against John Warner in a “Warner vs. Warner” election. Warner lost the election (the Mark Warner, not the John Warner), but gained notable public support in the process.

By the time he ran for governor of Virginia in 2001, Warner had about twice the amount of funding as his Republican opponent, Mark Earley. In a “Mark vs. Mark” election, Mark came out on top (the Warner Mark, not the Earley Mark).

In 2007 Warner announced he would be running once again for Senator. Unable to find anyone with the name “Mark” or “Warner” he settled for Jim Gilmore as an opponent and easily defeated him. Mark Warner is still serving in this position.

Herman Cain

Former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza
Herman Cain When Herman Cain took the helm at Godfather’s Pizza, he said the company “had one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel.”

With his gift to lift and inspire his employees, Cain was able to turn the company around. Cain, a man who has never held an elected office, ran for President of the United States on the platform of being a businessman who knows how to turn things around.

Failing to make it in the 2000 Republican Presidential Primary, and again out of Georgia in 2004, Cain surprised everyone when he skyrocketed to the top of the polls several months ago.  His campaign was ‘smokin’ until sexual harassment allegations started coming out of the woodwork.

Cain eventually announced the suspension of his campaign.

Mitt Romney

Former CEO of Bain & Company
Mitt RomneyImage: Red Dog Report When Mitt Romney first ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) caught much more attention than his experience as a founder and CEO of Bain Capital.

This time around, Romney’s experience in the private sector is at the forefront of his campaign, which in turn has kept him mostly ahead of the GOP pack with steady support from about a quarter of Republican voters.

Now that he’s won Florida, the question is this: Can Romney hold on as the GOP’s least-favorite favorite for the nomination?