Executives The Most Influential CEOs of All Time  

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793 votes 71 voters 1.7k views 48 items

List Rules Upvote your picks for the most important and inspirational CEOs in the history of business.

As business leaders, historical captains of industry and current CEOs inspire generations of entrepreneurs. They shape the commerce worlds of their day and beyond, influence political destinies - and make beaucoup bucks in the process. What does a CEO do, exactly? As a titan of the industrial revolution, Henry Ford perfected the assembly line to produce more affordable cars. Walt Disney brought "imagineering" to Hollywood with Disney animation studios, and later Disneyland and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Many contemporary "celebrity CEOs," aka famous CEOs, work out of Silicon Valley. Case in point: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who spun a social media and communications revolution from his Harvard dorm room to the halls of Congress.

While the leaders on this list are notable in their fields, not all fit the formal CEO definition in their time. What does CEO stand for? By strict standards, the CEO meaning is 'chief executive officer,' a relatively modern term that came into common parlance in the 1970s. Before then, company heads were more often referred to as 'Chairman' or 'President.' Some companies retroactively refer to their founders and figureheads as CEOs, while others do not.

For the purposes of this list, a person's stewardship and iconography are more important to consider when voting, rather than the formal title held during their tenure. Now that you know what a CEO is, share your opinions on the greatest CEOS of all time.

1
26 4
Henry Ford is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Henry Ford Henry Ford Company, James F. Flower & Bros, Detroit Dry Dock Co Henry Ford was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. Although Ford did not invent ...more

2
29 6
Bill Gates is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Bill Gates Cascade Investment, Microsoft Corporation William Henry "Bill" Gates III is an American business magnate, philanthropist, investor, computer programmer, and inventor. Gates originally established his reputation as the ...more

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30 9
Steve Jobs is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Steve Jobs Apple Inc., Pixar, Atari Steven Paul Jobs was an American entrepreneur, marketer, and inventor, who was the cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc. Through Apple, he was widely recognized as a charismatic and ...more

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27 7
Walt Disney is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Walt Disney Laugh-O-Gram Studio, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Kansas City Film Ad Company Walter Elias "Walt" Disney was an American entrepreneur, cartoonist, animator, voice actor, and film producer. As a prominent figure within the American animation industry and ...more

5
20 5
J. P. Morgan is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
J. P. Morgan J.P. Morgan & Company John Pierpont "J.P." Morgan was an American financier, banker, philanthropist and art collector who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his time. In 1892, ...more

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22 7
John D. Rockefeller is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
John D. Rockefeller Standard Oil, Exxon Mobil John Davison Rockefeller Sr. was an American business magnate and philanthropist. He was a co-founder of the Standard Oil Company, which dominated the oil industry and was the first great U.S. ...more

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18 5
Andrew Carnegie is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Andrew Carnegie Homestead Steel Works, Pennsylvania Railroad, Keystone Bridge Company Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish American industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century. He is also well known as a leading philanthropist. ...more

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20 7
Sam Walton is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Sam Walton Walmart, J. C. Penney Samuel Moore "Sam" Walton was an American businessman and entrepreneur best known for founding the retailers Walmart and Sam's Club.

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23 11
Elon Musk is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Elon Musk SolarCity, Tesla Motors Elon Reeve Musk is a South African-born, Canadian-American entrepreneur, engineer, inventor and investor. He is the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and chief product architect of Tesla Motors, and ...more

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18 7
Larry Page is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Larry Page Google, Alphabet Inc., PageRank Larry Page was Google's founding CEO and grew the company to more than 200 employees and profitability before moving into his role as president of products in April 2001. He continues to share ...more

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19 8
Jeff Bezos is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Jeff Bezos D. E. Shaw & Co., Kosmix, Fitel Jeffrey Preston "Jeff" Bezos is an American business magnate and investor. He is a technology entrepreneur who has played a key role in the growth of e-commerce as the founder and CEO ...more

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14 4
Richard Branson is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Richard Branson Virgin Broadband, Virgin Mobile UK, Virgin Mobile France Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is an English businessman and investor. He is best known as the founder of Virgin Group, which comprises more than 400 companies. At the age of sixteen his ...more

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18 9
Warren Buffett is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Warren Buffett Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett Partnership Ltd., Graham-Newman Corp Warren Edward Buffett is an American business magnate, investor and philanthropist. He was the most successful investor of the 20th century. Buffett is the chairman, CEO and largest shareholder ...more

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9 2
Jack Warner is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Jack Warner Warner Bros.-Seven Arts Jack Warner was a film producer and a business person.

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Mark Zuckerberg is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Mark Zuckerberg Facebook, Inc. Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur. He is best known as one of five co-founders of the social networking website Facebook. Zuckerberg was made ...more

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8 3
Cornelius Vanderbilt is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Cornelius Vanderbilt New York Central Railroad, Grand Central Depot Cornelius Vanderbilt, also known by the sobriquet Commodore, was an American business magnate and philanthropist who built his wealth in railroads and shipping. He was also the patriarch of the ...more

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10 5
Sakichi Toyoda is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Sakichi Toyoda Toyota Boshoku Corporation, Toyota Industries Sakichi Toyoda was a Japanese inventor and industrialist. He was born in Kosai, Shizuoka. The son of a poor carpenter, Toyoda is referred to as the "King of Japanese Inventors".

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Ray Kroc is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Ray Kroc McDonald's Raymond Albert "Ray" Kroc was an American businessman. He joined McDonald's in 1954 or 1955 and built it into the most successful fast food operation in the world. Kroc was included in ...more

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10 5
Conrad Hilton is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Conrad Hilton Hilton Hotels & Resorts Conrad Nicholson Hilton was an American hotelier and the founder of the Hilton Hotels chain.

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10 6
Rupert Murdoch is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Rupert Murdoch News Corporation, Fox Television Stations, DirecTV Group Keith Rupert Murdoch, AC, KCSG is an Australian American business magnate. Murdoch became managing director of Australia's News Limited, inherited from his father Sir Keith Arthur Murdoch in ...more

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10 6
Jack Ma is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Jack Ma Alibaba Group Jack Ma or Ma Yun is a Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, a family of highly successful Internet-based businesses. He is the ...more

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10 6
Ted Turner is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Ted Turner Turner Broadcasting System, World Championship Wrestling Robert Edward "Ted" Turner III is an American media mogul and philanthropist. As a businessman, he is known as founder of the Cable News Network more popularly known as CNN, the first ...more

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Asa Griggs Candler is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Asa Griggs Candler Coca-Cola Asa Griggs Candler was an American business tycoon who made his fortune selling Coca-Cola. He also served as the 44th Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia from 1916 to 1919. Candler Field, the site of the ...more

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8 7
Lee Iacocca is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Lee Iacocca Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation Lido Anthony "Lee" Iacocca is an American businessman known for engineering the Ford Mustang and Ford Pinto cars, being let go from Ford Motor Company, and his revival of the Chrysler ...more

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7 6
William Randolph Hearst is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
William Randolph Hearst Hearst Communications William Randolph Hearst was an American newspaper publisher who built the nation's largest newspaper chain and whose methods profoundly influenced American journalism. Hearst entered the ...more

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7 6
Ingvar Kamprad is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Ingvar Kamprad IKEA Ingvar Feodor Kamprad is a Swedish-German business magnate. He is the founder of IKEA, a Swedish retail company specialising in furniture and is one of the richest people in the world.

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6 5
Estée Lauder is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Estée Lauder Estée Lauder Companies Estée Lauder was an American businesswoman. She was the co-founder, along with her husband, Joseph Lauter, of Estée Lauder Companies, her eponymous cosmetics company. Lauder was ...more

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David Geffen is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
David Geffen DreamWorks, Asylum Records, Geffen Records David Lawrence Geffen is an American business magnate, producer, film studio executive, and philanthropist. Geffen created or co-created Asylum Records in 1970, Geffen Records in 1980, and DGC ...more

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Susan Wojcicki is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Susan Wojcicki YouTube, Google, DoubleClick Susan Diane Wojcicki is an American businesswoman and CEO of YouTube.

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Howard Schultz is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Howard Schultz Starbucks Howard D. Schultz is an American businessman. He is best known as the chairman and CEO of Starbucks and a former owner of the Seattle SuperSonics. He was a member of the Board of Directors at ...more

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Oprah Winfrey is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Oprah Winfrey WJZ-TV, Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, WTVF Oprah Gail Winfrey is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. Winfrey is best known for her multi-award-winning talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, ...more

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Larry Ellison is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Larry Ellison Oracle Corporation, Ampex, Precision Instruments Lawrence Joseph "Larry" Ellison is an American programmer, internet entrepreneur, adventurer, businessman and philanthropist. He was the Chief Executive Officer of the software company ...more

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Herb Kelleher is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Herb Kelleher Southwest Airlines Herbert "Herb" David Kelleher is the co-founder, Chairman Emeritus, and former CEO of Southwest Airlines.

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4 7
Jack Welch is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Jack Welch General Electric, MIT Sloan School of Management John Francis "Jack" Welch, Jr. is a retired American business executive, author and chemical engineer. He was chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001. During his ...more

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3 6
Stephen B. Burke is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Stephen B. Burke The Walt Disney Company, Comcast, General Foods Stephen B. "Steve" Burke is an American businessman. He serves as the Executive Vice President of Comcast as well as CEO and President of NBCUniversal.

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2 5
Madam C. J. Walker is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Madam C. J. Walker Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company Sarah Breedlove, known as Madam C. J. Walker, was an American entrepreneur and philanthropist, regarded as the first female self-made millionaire in America. She made her fortune by developing ...more

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3 7
Meg Whitman is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Meg Whitman Florists' Transworld Delivery, Hewlett-Packard, eBay Margaret Cushing "Meg" Whitman is an American business executive and political candidate. She is the chairwoman, president, and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard. A native of ...more

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2 6
Andrew W. Mellon is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Andrew W. Mellon T. Mellon & Sons, Alcoa, Carborundum Company Andrew William Mellon was an American banker, businessman, industrialist, philanthropist, art collector, United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom and United States Secretary of the ...more

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2 6
Ma Huateng is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Ma Huateng Tencent, China Motion Telecom Development Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma, is a Chinese entrepreneur who founded Tencent Inc., one of the largest internet companies in China. In 2007 and 2014 Time magazine called him one of the ...more

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2 6
Indra Nooyi is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Indra Nooyi ABB Ltd, PepsiCo, Motorola Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi is an Indian-born, naturalized American, business executive and the current Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, the second largest food and beverage ...more

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2 6
Dara Khosrowshahi is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Dara Khosrowshahi Expedia, BET.com, Hotels.com Dara Khosrowshahi born in Tehran, Iran, is an Iranian American businessman and the CEO of Expedia, Inc. Khosrowshahi received a B.S. in bioelectrical engineering from Brown University in 1991.

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1 5
Xavier Niel is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Xavier Niel Free, Le Monde Xavier Niel is a French entrepreneur and businessman, active in the telecommunications and technology industry and best known as founder and majority shareholder of the French Internet service ...more

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2 7
Katharine Graham is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Katharine Graham The Graham Holdings Company Katharine Meyer Graham was an American publisher. She led her family's newspaper, The Washington Post, for more than two decades, overseeing its most famous period, the Watergate coverage that ...more

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2 7
Martha Stewart is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Martha Stewart Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Martha Stewart Living Martha Helen Stewart is an American businesswoman, writer, and television personality. As founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she has gained success through a variety of business ...more

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Donald Trump is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Donald Trump Trump Entertainment Resorts Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is the 45th and current President of the United States, in office since January 20, 2017. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television ...more

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1 7
James Sinegal is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
James Sinegal FedMart, The Price Company, Costco James D. Sinegal is the co-founder and former CEO of Costco, an international retail chain.

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0 4
Sumner Redstone is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Sumner Redstone Viacom, Midway Games, National Amusements Sumner Murray Redstone is an American businessman and media magnate. He is the majority owner and Chairman of the Board of the National Amusements theater chain. Through National Amusements, ...more

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1 9
Tony Hsieh is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Tony Hsieh Zappos Tony Hsieh is an American internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He is the CEO of the online shoe and clothing shop Zappos.com. Prior to joining Zappos, Hsieh co-founded the internet ...more