Market Overview

Still On Top: Eight Of The Longest-Serving CEOs

Being a company's chief executive officer can be a very mixed blessing. Along with the power comes not only the burden of responsibility, but the realization that, in most cases, your position at the top depends on ensuring continued profits, prosperity and achievement.

"The length of CEOs' terms often correlates with their level of success,” Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross, with the global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, said several years ago. A study by Weber Shandwick noted that, in North America, the average tenure of a departing CEO was eight and a half years – compared to 6.5 years for European CEOs and four years, three months for CEOs in the Asia Pacific.

Given those figures, here are eight CEOs who are remarkable – not only for their accomplishments, but for also holding on to their jobs for a decade or, in some cases, much longer:

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    Reed Hastings, Netflix

    The Boston native co-founded Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) in 1997, and has been its CEO since September of 1998.

    From its start with DVD-by-mail rentals, the company is now an international video streaming service that also produces some of its own programming – including critically-acclaimed series such as Arrested Development, Hemlock Grove and House of Cards.

    “It’s up to Netflix to harness the power of the Internet better and faster than other people,” Hastings said in an interview last year, “to provide a great consumer experience.”

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    Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com

    A long-time tinkerer, devoted “Trekkie” and proud nerd, Bezos founded Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) as an online book-selling business in 1994.

    He became its CEO in May of 1996. The company went public in 1997 and has since become one of the world's leading e-commerce platforms, with a worldwide customer base of 225 million, that has made Bezos a multi-billionaire. He recently bought the Washington Post for $250 million.

    “I would define Amazon by our big ideas,” Bezos said on 60 Minutes last year, “which are customer centricity, putting the customer at the center of everything we do, invention. We like to pioneer, we like to explore, we like to go down dark alleys and see what’s on the other side.

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    Dan Amos, Aflac

    Amos' family founded the American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus, Georgia, in the 1950s.

    He became company president in 1973 and CEO in 1990. The company is the largest provider of supplemental insurance in the U.S., and also has a large presence in Japan.

    Amos was also the driving inspiration behind the company's popular and quirky Aflac (NYSE: AFL) duck commercials – which has given the company international name recognition.

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    Edward Rust, State Farm

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    Rupert Murdoch, News Corp.

    The son of a famous Australian journalist and publisher, Murdoch became founder and CEO of News Corp. (NASDAQ: NWS) in 1979.

    The media holding company has since evolved into the world's largest media conglomerate -- whose properties include 20th Century Fox, the Fox News Channel, HarperCollins and the Wall Street Journal.

    And despite numerous scandals, corporate and personal, Murdoch, an American citizen since the 1980s, has remained in charge of his empire.

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    Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway

    The legendary value investor became Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE: BRK-A) chief executive in 1970. The son of a stock broker-turned-congressman, Buffett transformed Berkshire Hathaway from a faltering textile manufacturer into a holding company.

    "One of the dumbest things was to make a textile company the base of other things we bought or invested in,” Buffett said in a recent interview.

    But Berkshire Hathaway has since expanded to include a wide spectrum of businesses – including some major food, insurance, apparel, media, rail and furniture companies.

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    Larry Ellison, Oracle

    Ellison founded Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) in June of 1977, and has been its CEO from the start. One of the richest men on the planet, he's known for living large.

    He collects airplanes, yachts, homes and currently owns most of the Hawaiian island of Lanai. He's also known for sinking huge amounts of money into Team Oracle USA's successful defense of America's Cup in 2013.

    “Someone once asked me if it’s worth $100 million to win the America’s Cup,” Ellison said in a documentary about the competition.“It’s certainly not worth $100 million to lose the America’s Cup.”

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    Roger Penske, Penske Corp.

    The Indy and NASCAR legend also tops the list of longest-serving CEOs. Penske founded the Penske Corporation (NYSE: PAG) and became its chief executive in 1969.

    He turned a car dealership and truck-leasing business into a company with $19 billion in revenues – and subsidiaries in the retail automotive, manufacturing and professional motor sports sectors.

    His Team Penske racing group, meanwhile, has been called the “New York Yankees of motor sports,” with 15 Indianapolis 500 wins and dozens of other national championships.

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