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Disgraced VW CEO gets Harvard thumbs-up

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Disgraced VW CEO gets Harvard thumbs-up
Look who made it into Harvard Business Review's list of best CEOs. Photo: DPA
14:21 CEST+02:00
The Harvard Business Review has just released its global index of the best CEOs. One Germany entry stands out for all the wrong reasons.

The 2015 edition of the global CEO list saw a German come in at No. 4. Elmar Degenhart, boss at Hanover-based Continental, rose up the rankings from 19th place in 2014, after the company posted a 24-percent increase in profit in 2014.

Scroll down the list to No. 18 and one finds Dane Kasper Rorsted, CEO at Düsseldorf's cleaning product manufacturer Henkel.

But then a surprise crops up. The last German to appear in the top twenty - blazing up the rankings from 89th place last year - is a certain Mr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen – until he had to resign at the end of September in one of the biggest scandals in recent corporate history.

The Harvard boffins are apparently impressed by Mr. Winterkorn's environmental track record, and his reputation of transparency with governments across the globe.

They give him a score of 46 for his 'environment, social and governance performance.'

Volkswagen have admitted to installing a so-called defeat device into 11 million of their cars which would hide their true emissions levels from government testers. Upon resigning Winterkorn denied any responsibility for the scandal.

Explaining how they appraise the world's best CEOs the Harvard experts say: “HBR's ranking of CEOs is meant to be a measure of enduring success,” adding that they evaluate “long-term performance.”

The study takes into consideration "total shareholder return, as well as the change in each company's market capitalization.”

They add that they've “added to the mix a measurement of each company's environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance.”

HBR notes that Winterkorn's ranking is based on the company's financial data through April 30th and a strong ESG score that has since been downgraded.

But Winterkorn resigned before the list went to press, making it puzzling that his name wasn't removed from the, given the weight of the scandal.

So is the formula for success the following? Pull the wool over the eyes of state regulators from China to the USA, knock billions of dollars of the stock valuation of your company, have your headquarters raided by state prosecutors – and you might just have caught the eye of the Harvard Business Review.

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