Magazine for Senior Financial Executives: The Search

The Search – Editorial

REMEMBER THE BOOK “IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE,” by Tom Peters? A blockbuster when first printed, the book identified the most admired companies of the early 1980s. It made a huge impression on me as a young reporter–and also later, as most of the companies singled out went bankrupt or disappeared.

It’s always risky to pin the first-place label, and never does the risk feel more onerous than when we are picking the CFO Excellence Award winners. This year’s radical innovation becomes next year’s given. Wall Street darlings turn into pariahs. And in this case, we are blessed and cursed by a roster of finalists who can all legitimately claim to be outstanding.

Nevertheless, I’m confident that the finance leaders who won this year’s awards (see “The Finest in Finance,” page 44) are the best of an excellent lot. Some are familiar CFOs whose companies have beat their competitors for many years, like Greg Maffei at Microsoft, John Menzer at Wal-Mart, Frank Borelli at Marsh & McLennan, Larry Carter at Cisco Systems, Ralph Packard at Vanguard, Andrew Fastow at Enron, and Richard Wallman at AlliedSignal.

Other winners remind us that stars may shine brightly in troubled times. Larry Kellner helped Continental Airlines sidestep its third turnaround. Robert Switz reversed ADC’s plunging stock price. Chris Davis took Gulfstream Aerospace from near-failure to unprecedented growth. Glenn Harder positioned Carolina Power & Light to take on all comers.

I am convinced these winners’ stories will have lasting value. Judges Paul Charron, Dennis Dammerman, Karl von der Heyden, Nell Minow, Thomas Neff, and Tom Wilson brought much wisdom to the task of selecting them. The criteria for judging–creativity, leadership, and contribution to shareholder value–endure beyond changing times and management shifts. My congratulations to the winners on their achievement, and my thanks for leading us on the search.


COPYRIGHT 1999 CFO Publishing Corp.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group