A star CEO makes all the difference

Performance in the corner office has made these companies into leaders.

By Jim Cramer Mar 21, 2013 9:06AM

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CEO Photodisc Getty ImagesWe do not talk enough about execution. It is the mother's milk of profits, and in an era when ETFs are the preferred method of trading, the whole notion of long-term management performance gets lost in the shuffle.

And then you will get a couple of days when management's great work just shines through. Wednesday was one of those days. Just think about how many terrific CEOs and their amazing deeds we heard from or read about. Just think about how hard these people are working for you and how they are delivering for you.

We know that Ken Powell is delivering a level of performance at General Mills (GIS) that is astounding. Think about all of the obstacles that he's overcome: higher commodity prices, a sluggish consumer, endless buy-one-get-one couponing. And what has he done? He's given you nothing less than consistent sleep-at-night earnings reports like the one we got this morning, endless dividend increases and tremendous share-take. Powell is everything you can ask of a CEO.

Or how about Stuart Miller at Lennar (LEN)? It's not easy to follow the towering legacy of Stuart's dad, Leonard. But Stuart's late father has to be smiling somewhere about what this executive has done in the toughest housing market since the Depression. His beautiful quarter shows that he's building more homes, making more money per home and accumulating a land bank that will drive earnings for years and years to come.

Then there's Laura Alber, the remarkable CEO of Williams-Sonoma (WSM), who has steered this high-end housewares company onto perhaps the best growth path of anyone in the industry. This multi-cylinder company, which includes Pottery Barn and West Elm, is hitting on every one of them. The expectations were so high here, and she crushed them. I think we are in the early innings of the growth for Williams-Sonoma, as Alber has taken a company with electric merchandise but a stodgy reputation and turned it into a high-performance vehicle.

Then there is Al Walker, the quiet executive behind Anadarko (APC) who had to follow in the huge footsteps of the towering Jim Hackett, and who continues that exploration-and-production company's reputation as being the best wildcatter in the world. This announcement of a gigantic new find in the Gulf of Mexico is breathtaking and shows there's still plenty of oil left if you know where to look for it.

Finally, there is Greg Wasson, the CEO behind the remarkable renaissance at Walgreen (WAG), who is not only reinventing the drugstore format but who just inked an amazing deal with AmerisourceBergen (ABC) that raises estimates for the company while cutting prices for generics for the consumers.

That's incredible. No wonder we have had multiple upgrades of the company's stock since the announcement of this breathtaking transaction. It's totally transformational and comes right on the heels of what now looks like a brilliant merger with Alliance Boots, a deal that, candidly, I questioned, and I now admit I questioned incorrectly.

Sure, you can keep buying ETFs. Yes you can say that sector is all that matters. But these fabulous executives are delivering amazing performance and should be celebrated every time we think about the so-called "big issues" such as Cyprus, the Fed or the budget deficit. They have their eye on the ball -- don't take your eye off of them just because of European woes or Fed worries. You are liable to miss a big fat pitch that you can hit right into the upper deck.




Jim Cramer is a co-founder of TheStreet and contributes daily market commentary to the financial news network's sites. Follow his trades for Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust and has no positions  in stocks mentioned.  



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Mar 21, 2013 9:52AM
He said the same things about angelo mozila at countrywide and eddie lampert at sears --- basically cramer will gyrate on any ceo who agrees to appear on his nighlty  informercial .........
Mar 21, 2013 9:45AM

"""Think about all of the obstacles that HE'S overcome"""


yes, it's all about the CEO.  the large number of regular people working in every company have NOTHING to do with it. 


a smart CEO lets the people do what they know needs to get done.  he doesn't get in the way, and provides the tools the people need to do their jobs affectively

Mar 21, 2013 12:01PM
My apoligy to Limo Pat ............ I thought you had not been showing up due to your split personality disorder being publicly displayed but now I learn you have been in Israel putting the wrong fuel in the presidential limo.......... Good Job Sgt. Weiner.
Mar 21, 2013 9:25AM
I completely agree - a CEO can make or break a company.  This is true regardless of the size of the company or what business they are in. 

If employees are confident in the CEO and his leadership abilities, if they buy into his vision for the future and his path to get there, morale stays up, productivity increases and people conduct themselves with a purpose that is generally beneficial to those around them.... Pretty much the opposite of what happens when Obama is in charge.
Mar 21, 2013 9:46AM

It all starts at the top.  If the top guy is committed the rest will follow.  Good leadership I believe begins with commitment.  If the top guy builds a big tent and everyone feels welcome survival is a possibility.  If he demonizes half his employees nothing will get accomplished.  Get it?

Mar 21, 2013 10:43AM

We are having a follow up to yesterday's late afternoon selloff, nothing more, nothing less...Manipulators tend to do this and the goal of course is to drop this market triple digits today...Just be careful...All we can do is try to minimize the damage...We understand it is still early but things do not look good down here...Housing numbers were positive but good news are irrelevant when crooks take over things....More a little later.

Mar 21, 2013 12:00PM
Beware of sucker's rallies folks...We will have them through out the day probably....And as usual they will save their best for closing time...We will see.
Mar 21, 2013 8:49PM
Like we said earlier, at 1320 hrs they started to accelerate and after a couple of small sucker's rallies to try to lure more people into buying they pulled the trigger at about 1530 hrs, and that's all she wrote...When manipulators take over on and off the floor there is very little anyone can do....They were shooting for triple digits down and they were almost there...We call it as we see it folks....Oh well, and by all the talk after the close looks like they are anxious to repeat tomorrow...We will see.
Mar 21, 2013 1:28PM
At about 1320 hrs manipulators called to accelerate the selling so we are approaching triple digits....No big surprise, they are in charge on and off the floor...All we can do is try to minimize the damage, wont be a pleasant afternoon...We will see.
Mar 21, 2013 10:59AM

Let's get something Straight.....9 out 10 CEOs are NOT....And I will repeat NOT !!

Worth their SALT...


Particularily in American Companies, They don't overcome many of the problems they are faced with and they have a battery of people UNDERNEATH them to accomplish, clearing up those problems..

They are way overpaid by MOST World standards, in the multiples of hundreds of times, of what their lower production workers are making that actually produce and keep the company running..

If the workers don't produce, normally you can find fault in the lower and mid-management operations of doing business...Usually Mid-management that are way over their heads..

It's not a Union or non-Union thing when Companies fail....It falls back on upper management and the CEO, along with the Boards that allow it to happen..


The Strangest part....Is they are rewarded FOR BAD BEHAVIOR...Only in America and very few other places;...Do they get great packages and "golden parachutes" for doing a "bad job"...

And then they waltz away to usually start again all over...With a handsome agreement to come on board somewhere else....

I have lived with one CEO, have known a few others and been involved with a lot of upper and middle management....There are a plenty of Good ones....But unfortunately there are more Bad ones....That are not  " WORTH THEIR SALT ."

Mar 21, 2013 11:47AM

Ya I've experienced the difference in both bad and good bosses.  I would say the general pattern is original founder of a business is a good boss, he remembers what it was like before success but is very driven and motivated.  If you can work for a 1st generation business owner you will find it to be a positive experience.  2nd generation usually can run the company well enough but they have that sense of entitlement and start to view people as a means to their ends.  3rd generation tends to be as worthless as they come.  The problem with Corporate America is that it appears to be aristocracy that runs these big companies and really the government too.  So it appears that performance does not factor into compensation these days, just who owes who the biggest favor. 

So if I vote for this bill you'll put me on the board for 5 years making what????

Mar 21, 2013 1:04PM

Strangely I remember well the Salt comparison of the Legions....

In that part of the World, Salt, wheat, spices and in general other commodities were of value..

Gold and Jewels were mosly important to the Aristocracy or anyone that could steal it...


I'm NOT on HERE to BASH Cramer, ALL CEOs, nor Obama.....

There are plenty of "good" CEOs,,,But most are way overpaid...IMO.

The Salt comparisom applies to FARM ANIMALS, also...Especially if you have Livestock that is "not gaining weight" or producing...Carrying their weght so to speak...

Cramer "can't bash" them too often, because he has to interview and talk to them often, and then in many cases support their Companies....Doing HIS job...


Unfortunately "MOST FOUNDERS" don't run their Companies like they use to, MANY are dead;

Companies go out and hire "hatchet weilders" or the latest and greatest, high paid smucks SOMETIMES...

It takes away the sentimentality...And some Founders have gotten old, turn the operations over to their Children or someone else they have "groomed"....ie; Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger.. 

Many have a lot of second thoughts about leaving their Babies or Berks.??

We all know of Good CEOs and Managers...They normally do make for a well run Company, and usually a "Good investment."  

Mar 21, 2013 10:25AM

Current Crises: That there is a quantity of money outstanding that cannot be categorized as currency because it is fixed, hoarded or beholden and therefore courses nowhere. The core crisis is simplistic- money was invented to compensate for labor performed, and it no longer is. It really doesn't matter how many white papers are written or by whom or the slant of topic... flat out, we no longer recognize labor as the basis, so everything outstanding... every single unit-- is false and corrupt. I've been reading The Economist again (I stop for a while when it becomes info-mercial-like). Basically, globalization was exploited by failing businesses whose management was unwilling to admit failure and wouldn't leave and forfeit unearned compensation. Notably, 90% of platforms that exported jobs did not gain from the experience. 100% of businesses discovered too late (2008) that they had surpassed decline and were wilting on the vine. Most who take a step back and look, now can see that Central Banks did what they did to save their college roomies and alumni, not to actually commit to compensating equal to the extent of labor and RAISING the bank rates to pinch off dead business models. Today, we have three currency units (by nature) and a massive shortfall in labor to uphold their values. In short, what is, is false and what isn't, is truing itself fully distant from what we see and perceive we see.

There is NO recovery because the form factor recovering is nebulous at best and the remnant majority won't buy into it. To explain: When a parent is pressed by a teen to buy an i-Phone for purely social reasons, but the parent is under-employed and struggling to put dinner on the table, a classic conundrum lies ahead-- eat or assimilate to the social network. Eating is a basic requirement. Society utilizes device and pressure to sustain. When the Undeniable Need to Feed confronts the Peer Pressure Desire to Fit In, eventually- pressure loses because it has no critical value. The entire false financial foray in play today cannot sustain and is identical in composite to the social network that thrives solely by device. Two obvious inevitabilities come to mind: First, a little speck that ranks 160th in world powers- Cypress, declined the Central Bank Mandate is was given. It becomes the second nation to exist outside of the complex equation that IS the financial tyranny we endure. Much the same as an assassination, it can- all by itself- throw the equation out of whack and cause World War III (another inevitability now). Second- all the family-sustaining jobs are held by collusion now (the number of new hires fired for drugs, alcohol, unethical to criminal traits is off the charts) while actual performance abilities measured by peers is grossly declining. That's an impasse that eventually compromises everything. Put those two together and you want to move to the country, establish an automated farm and purify your own resources! Bernanke cannot maintain a bailing of the world. Some say he has $16 Trillion DEAD in EU bonds right now and Trillions more in Asian facilities that won't honor distribution requests. Without returns on his complex financial instruments, he has to print to pay the rent on those he owes. Those are most likely the same business platforms that should have failed, not been bailed. In short, those who owe are likely owed. It's a stupid loop. When this all blows up later this year, everyone in the social network society- also in the game-- lose. I don't endorse preppers, but being an outsider now is a key attribute. Beware though... havoc will reign when every false penny evaporates down the drain.

Mar 21, 2013 9:55AM
I don't want to sound a premature alarm but seems to me this market has been leaking a little oil.  The most solid stocks are now faltering. Positive Fed news has now been trumpet by a blown gasket in the EU zone. Just resting or a sea change?
Mar 21, 2013 10:16AM


I'm thinking this is a resetting, I think the market has a few more months of gains to go, as long as no agreement is signed on the Cyprus problem that scares Europeans to get their money out of the banks this will pass. 

So EU and Cyprus just to let you know if you steal your citizens money you could very well cause them to panic and withdraw their money not just in Cyprus but in other bail out nations and the consequences would be dire.

Mar 21, 2013 11:52AM
To many companies have a culture of fear where managers seem to be in constant fear of replacement, this leads to finger pointing and then the hiring of sub par employees who could "never" replace the manager
Mar 21, 2013 9:37AM
Like Bob Steele the 'man of steel' from Wachovia?  J.O.
Mar 21, 2013 7:29PM
After you guys were unloading.....That could have been enough for anybody...??
Mar 21, 2013 2:59PM
I wonder why ABS (angry ball sucker) didn't show up today ....perhaps he was arrested in a prostitution sting in NY where he pretends he lives .......abs if you ever get out of jail ....next time don't carry the red ball gag with you as it's a dead give away .........
Mar 21, 2013 1:22PM

Silver has been depressed as much as Gold.....But definitely has more uses, in the real World.

Hovering aound $28-30 forever...With a high of about $50 in it's last Heyday..

Little demand by Central Banks when compared to Gold..

Maybe a better short term investment then Gold, but margins are in the slim catergory..


With the advent of ETFs...There has also been more interest and demand for both..

Doubt Silver can be cornered in the Market place....Remember the Hunt Brothers..??

More mines are open and production kicks into high gear..And there is SCRAP Silver everywhere.

There are other PMs ...Platinum and Palladium...Think Auto Industry..

And then you have Copper, Iron, and Aluminum...Think Recovery..

But for Investment purposes I like Gold...But the "stagnation" is killing us...Think "Inflation, turmoil, like in Cyprus, low interest rates, devalued U$D......And a few other situations.

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