From the meme stock rally to the “metaverse,” the CEOs who mattered in 2021 included Robinhood’s Vlad Tenev and Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg.
Tenev navigated criticism of his company’s commission-free trading app to pull off an initial public offering that valued the brokerage startup at more than $30 billion. Zuckerberg changed his company name and direction, and he pushed Meta to be more aggressive in responding to controversies, including a trove of leaked internal documents that outlined how much the company knew about harmful effects of its products.
Another notable CEO, Citigroup’s Jane Fraser, the first woman to lead one of the nation’s largest financial firms, shook up the bank’s culture and took a different approach with its return-to-office plan than rivals, promising “Zoom-free Fridays” and permanent hybrid work schedules for all who want one.
What top executives will be the newsmakers of 2022? The DealBook newsletter has some predictions for the CEOs to watch in the new year.
If 2022 turns out to be a return to normal, the CEOs of the companies that saw the biggest boost from the pandemic might be the ones trying to figure out how to stay afloat. Shares of Peloton have fallen 61% over the past three months, while those in Moderna and Zoom have sunk about 30%.
Peloton’s chief, John Foley, must reverse a sales slump driven by gym reopenings. Zoom’s CEO, Eric Yuan, must convince investors that its core videoconferencing software can adapt to a new era of hybrid work. And, although the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus may amplify demand for boosters, Moderna’s leader, Stéphane Bancel, must prove that his company has more than one viable vaccine.
Some executives took on prominent new CEO positions this year who are worth watching.
Rosalind Brewer was picked to run Walgreens in March, and has moved the pharmacy chain further into health care and away from retail. Thasunda Brown Duckett, a top JPMorgan Chase executive, began leading the finance giant TIAA in May.
In tech, Andy Jassy replaced Jeff Bezos as Amazon’s CEO in July and must now fend off fierce scrutiny from regulators on everything from antitrust issues to workplace safety, while Parag Agrawal, who became Twitter’s CEO in November, will have to prove that he can deliver on the social network’s ambitious growth targets.
After nearly 10 years in stealth mode and holding one of the biggest IPOs of this year, Rivian is under pressure to deliver on its promise of doing for electric trucks what Tesla did for electric cars. Despite having sold just 386 vehicles as of last week, Rivian now has a market cap bigger than that of Ford and on a par with that of General Motors. R.J. Scaringe, the automaker’s chief, has big expansion plans for next year, including breaking ground on a $5 billion factory in Georgia while expanding Rivian’s plant in Illinois and producing 100,000 delivery vehicles for Amazon, another investor.
Mary Barra of General Motors expects a big payoff from the investments that the carmaker has made in electric vehicles. In October, she said the company aimed to roughly double its annual revenue by 2030, to about $280 billion, growth driven mostly by new electric trucks and cars but also by new revenue streams from software and services. In 2022, investors will undoubtedly keep an eye on the company’s progress on those ambitious goals.