Mark Mason from Citigroup; Dhivya Surayadevara from Stripe; Laura Miele, Electronic Arts. Illustration by Alexander Wells
Our second annual list of 50 executives who are likely to lead some of America’s top companies.
By Diane Brady Jena McGregor
Additional reporting available Ethan Steinberg Anthony Tellez
OThere are many talent wars in America, but none as difficult as the search for a great CEO. With the increasing pace of change, and increased demands on leaders for their leadership, success metrics have become more complex.
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And yet, as our second annual CEO Next list shows, the next generation of contenders to lead America’s largest companies is looking strong. They have survived and led through financial meltdowns, booms and recessions, periods of prosperity and periods that were characterized by transformative innovation, a pandemic that has transformed the way we live, work, and play. They are diverse, but diversifying the top business ranks is frustratingly slow. They embrace the human side and leadership like their predecessors.
We surveyed the top executive coaches, consultants, recruiters, and other professionals. Forbes newsroom to create this year’s list of 50 leaders who look poised to step into large-company CEO jobs. Some are clear contenders within their own company—a common path in a year when fewer than 19% of new CEO hires have been external candidates, according to Crist Kolder Associates, versus more than 30% in 2019. Others are entrepreneurs, who are disrupting the industry from within or are in Csuite roles that are not normally a stepping-stone to the CEO position. (Read our article to learn more about the skills and backgrounds that boards require.
The common thread that unites the executives on this roster is the recognition of their talent and accomplishments by those who have built their careers on working with the CEOs tomorrow. Nobody applied to be on the list; for some, it may be a recognition they’d prefer to do without. This list doesn’t capture the visionary founders or people leading small businesses, nor does it recognize the leaders from our inaugural list who have only gotten stronger.
Because this role is a high-ranking one, we focused on those who are likely to lead large U.S. businesses. The behemoths of business have the scale and reach to impact millions of lives, for good and for ill. How those leaders choose to make their products, treat their people and manage their operations can set a new gold standard for accountability, sustainability and success—or undermine trust, prosperity and the planet.
Over the past two years many boards and chief executive officers have been focused on managing their companies through a global epidemic and rising inflation. This has resulted in a decrease in turnover. But as those storms begin to calm, the succession rate is picking up again—making way for another generation. (See our exclusive look here at new CEO succession data. Experts feel these 50 candidates are well-positioned for the difficult waters ahead.
President, North America Zone: Kraft Heinz
Recruiters credit Abrams Rivera with rebuilding Kraft Heinz. “digital first”His chances of becoming the next in line to lead the food and drink company where he oversees its largest area, have increased. Since his arrival to The Kraft Heinz Company from Campbell Soup Co. in 2020, Abrams-Rivera had to manage price rises, supply chain snarls, and product recalls. He was previously the manager of its Pepperidge Farm and snacks businesses. It was a return of sorts. The Puerto Rico native started his corporate career with Kraft Foods. He then moved on to senior positions in the global snacks division that was spun off to become Mondelez International.
Chief Merchant & Marketing Officer: Kroger
Aitken is responsible for a wide range of responsibilities at the grocery chain, including pricing and sales. Kroger has been helped greatly by the rise in home cooking. However, leaders like Aitken have had to face the challenges of inflation as well as supply chain issues. Aitken’s credentials include prior CEO experience at two data science companies, as well as high-profile marketing roles at Michaels Stores and Safeway.
Chief Technology Officer: Autodesk
Recruiters believe that Arasu has demonstrated strong leadership qualities and has used the CTO role to increase productivity, innovation, growth, and overall effectiveness at Autodesk. In her previous role as senior vice president of platform engineering at Intuit—a company recruiters say is known for building strong leaders—Arasu helped lead the software company’s platform strategy as well as its cloud transformation. She also held leadership roles at StubHub (and eBay) and a seat on the MediaAlpha board.
Chief Customer Officer at AT&T Consumer
Arnoldi has held many key leadership positions since joining AT&T in 2008 from Accenture. Arnoldi was the CEO of Vrio Corp in Latin America, which AT&T sold last year to Grupo Werthein. Prior to this, she was the president for technology and network operations, where she managed a team that included nearly 200,000 employees. She is now a leader of a team that handles more than 180 million customer interactions per year and is regarded as an exceptional operator. She also advocates for women in STEM roles within her company and elsewhere.
Marc Benioff, Chief Business Officer and Chief of Staff: Salesforce
Chiefs of staff—a role borrowed from Washington that has proliferated in many corporations—often act as a proxy for the CEO in meetings, while requiring the trust of top brass and relationships that span the company. While Beckwith’s role, which includes leading the Salesforce Foundation, is not the usual path to the corner office, it’s one some recruiters find intriguing. She reports directly to Benioff and has a front-row view of the business. She is a member of the Poshmark board of directors. She seems to have the ambition: Her personal blog, #BossNotesShe wrote that “I still feel like I’m just getting started.”
Chief Product Officer & Executive Vice President, Creative Cloud: Adobe
Belsky joined Adobe for the first time in 2012 when Behance, a social networking platform he founded in 2006, was acquired by Adobe. He left Adobe a few years later to concentrate on his work as an adviser and investor in companies such Uber, Pinterest, Sweetgreen and others. He returned to Adobe in late 2017. Along with overseeing Adobe’s creative products and services, he also runs Adobe’s global design team. Because of his 42-year-old age, and the vast scope of the job, he is a strong candidate for the CEO position. His experience as an entrepreneur, leader and in a top tech company is another plus.
Global Chief Customer Officer: Intercontinental Hotels Group
One recruiter called her a “hidden gem” because of a pedigree that includes Pepsi and American Express—as well as her leadership experience at IHG during the travel industry’s pandemic-fueled downturn. Bennett is credited for understanding the services industry and thinking like an operator. As the global chief customer officer, she is responsible for marketing, loyalty programs, partnerships and the total guest experience—skills that recruiters say could make her a prime candidate to run a retail or other hospitality business.
CEO: Sempra Infrastructure
Bird held several senior positions at the energy holding company. It distributes natural gas and electricity as well as builds out infrastructure, from pipelines to wind farm. Praised as a far-sighted dealmaker with a global mindset and a desire to make Sempra a leading innovator in the energy transition, Bird represents a new generation of sustainability-minded leaders rising in the energy sector.
Alexis Black Bjorlin
VP, Infrastructure Hardware: Meta
Bjorlin’s arrival at Meta late last year sent a strong signal that the company formerly known as Facebook was serious about building out the processing power of its infrastructure to thrive in an immersive virtual world. Bjorlin is an engineer with a PhD and was previously the head of the optical systems division at Broadcom reporting to CEO Hock Tan. He also held several senior positions at Intel. One recruiter says that with Bjorlin’s mix of IQ and EQ, he would put her “up in front of anyone.”
Bank of America, Chief Financial Officer
Borthwick is a veteran of many key businesses and functions. This gives him the silo-busting perspective a CEO requires. Through his work with the Posse Foundation and internal efforts at Bank of America, Borthwick has been a long-standing advocate for diversity and inclusion. With Bank of America’s current leadership likely to remain in place through the end of the decade, the Scottish-born executive is being eyed as someone who could be appealing to a number of competitors.
Walgreens, President, Retail Products & Chief Client Officer
Brown, who was CEO of the American Diabetes Association in 2012, was appointed to this new role. She is credited for leading a digital transformation. She has held leadership roles at Sam’s Club (AMD, American Express, P&G), American Express (American Express), American Express (AmD), and American Express (P&G). This experience includes technology, financial services, energy, consumer goods, and technology. Brown is a versatile candidate who can be used in a variety of industries.
Raytheon Technologies, Chief Operating Officer
Calio joined United Technologies as a 2005 employee. He spent 15 years working to transform the conglomerate. The culmination of his efforts was a merger with Raytheon, which was completed just as the world entered lockdown in April 2020. Calio’s commitment to innovation and culture was a key factor in the success of the merger, having faced many headwinds throughout his career.
Global President, Vaccines, Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group: Pfizer
Pfizer’s global pandemic preparedness team is a challenging role. According to recruiters, Cocero has not only delivered but also gained valuable geopolitical knowledge that will be a benefit in her next job. She excelled in a position that required high operational demands, strong risk management skills, and a lot of visibility. Along with carrying strong academic credentials—a PhD in pharmacology from the University of Pennsylvania and a Wharton MBA—the Puerto Rico-born Cocero is considered one of the most influential Latinas in business.
Theodore (Ted), Colbert III
President & CEO, Boeing Defense, Space & Security: Boeing
Colbert was recently tapped to take charge of Boeing’s defense unit, which has struggled amid high-profile cost overruns and delays related to an Air Force One deal forged during the Trump Administration. But tackling big challenges comes naturally to Colbert, who’s had successful stints at the helm of Boeing Global Services and as Boeing’s CIO. Colbert is a strong supporter of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Recently, Colbert won the prestigious Black Engineers Of The Year award. Colbert’s success at Ford and Citigroup has led to recruiters predicting that he could become a chief executive in a variety of industries.
Starbucks: Group President, International and Channel Development
Starbucks is often cited by recruiters as a company that develops great leaders. Conway is the most prominent. “rock star” example. Conway has been a leader in operations in 80 countries and forging new partnerships and channels for the brand. Conway is an example of Conway’s achievements in many key roles over the past decade. Praised as a strong multichannel operator with extensive global experience, Conway’s name repeatedly comes up when talking with CEO recruiters.
Chief Operating Officer, Google Consumer Hardware: Google
The woman who, at the age of 15, built a successful scrunchie company in Costa Rica to bring Google’s consumer product to life is the best to do so. Later, she used her entrepreneurial skills to cofound a solar business that was purchased in 2010. Corrales, who was also an executive at Nest and Cisco before joining Google, sponsors Google’s Latino Employee Resource Group. “Ana understands where the world is going,”One recruiter stated, “and she knows how to get there.”
Global Workplace Solutions CEO: CBRE
Dhandapani will be in high demand as long as digital transformation remains a sought-after skill in the executive board. She was previously the chief transformation officer at the real estate company, and she also held a similar position within Capital One’s financial services division. Dhandapani is also responsible for overseeing human resources and marketing, as well as supply chain operations.
VP, EV industrialization, Ford Model e: Ford
It’s important to be there when the boss is pursuing transformation. Drake, a former COO of North America knows how to navigate the complex challenges of supply chains and Ford’s many stakeholders. The Pittsburgh native has been active in efforts for more women to enter the automotive sector. She also held positions as an engineer and purchasing executive.
SVP, Caterpillar Remanufacturing division: Caterpillar
Edwards started his career as a front line plant supervisor at Delphi, when it was part of General Motors, before moving on to GE’s transportation business and then Caterpillar’s rail subsidiary. Edwards is a well-known strategic manager. He now heads the industrial giant’s division of remanufacturing, which offers lower-cost replacement parts made from Cat components. This gives him enterprise-wide experience in managing what’s considered the core of the company’s sustainability strategy.
Global Co-Head, Investment Banking Division: Goldman Sachs
As with all big Wall Street banks there are many talented people who are ready to take the top job. Esposito is widely considered to have the best combination of skills and understanding of the business, should the job become available soon. The New Jersey native and former varsity wrestling champion credits his father, a Wall Street senior executive, for instilling in him and his brothers a strong work ethic. (All three have reached senior positions in finance. But it’s his prowess in transforming the business to get ahead of trends that’s caught the eye of recruiters in finance.
Chief Digital & Technology Officer: Pfizer
In addition to overseeing Pfizer’s digital strategy, Fonseca leads the company’s learning and development, as well as its push to improve how it creates and delivers products. Under her leadership, Pfizer has automated over 90% of its processes. Fonseca’s priorities: improving health outcomes, accelerating medicine development and fueling innovation such as AI-powered predictive algorithms to track and treat disease.
President & CEO, Walmart U.S.: Walmart
Furner, who has previously led Sam’s Club with great results and often pinch-hitting CEO Doug McMillon on key issues, is every bit the company man. He grew up in the company’s hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas and began working part-time at Walmart as a teen. He has held a variety of roles over the years, from being a buyer and store manager to heading marketing and merchandising at Walmart China. He is also chairman of the National Retail Federation’s board of directors. He understands the importance to be a leader in the industry.
Moderna, Chief Commercial Officer
Garay, who was previously the CMO of Merck’s Human Health business, came to Moderna. She also comes in with extensive global experience and leadership of key units such as Merck’s U.S. vaccine business. Moderna is a company that has evolved from a pioneer in research that developed a COVID vaccine using messenger RNA to a commercial entity that plans to scale its mRNA research to revolutionize medical care. If Garay is able to navigate the complex terrain of compliance, competition, and end-user cost, she could be well placed for a role as a CEO in healthcare and beyond.
JetBlue’s President & Chief Operating Officer
Geraghty began her professional life as a lawyer and came to JetBlue to work on regulatory and litigation issues. She then moved on to manage talent, and then customer experience, before becoming the COO. Through the airline’s “Fly Like A Girl” program, she’s pushed to boost the number of women choosing to become pilots and airline technicians. One recruiter stated it this way: “She runs operations with an eye to seeing new opportunities for the industry.”
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Chief Food & Beverage Officer: Target
Gomez held many key roles at Target from strategy and marketing to e-commerce. Before joining Target, he worked for MillerCoors and PepsiCo. One recruiter praises Gomez for identifying Gomez. “brand-building prowess”and a track record of delivering results. Nelson Peltz (Chief at Wendy’s), who helped Gomez join that board, spoke out about his commitment to corporate social responsibilities.
Blackstone is the President and Chief Operating Officer
Some names on this listing are real up-and coming talent. Others are almost all-but-anointed. Jon Gray, Blackstone’s ex-real estate chief and widely regarded as Stephen Schwarzman’s heir apparent, falls under the latter category. The former real-estate chief, who joined Blackstone from Wharton in 1992 and was a part of the lucrative acquisition of Hilton hotels for $26 billion in 2007. He has been leading the daily management of the firm since 2018. Blackstone’s long-running succession is unlike many other clash-of the-titans financial service hand-offs. has been notedIt lacks drama. The shock would be if Gray doesn’t ascend to the top job.
Chief Financial Officer: CMS Energy
Hayes is often a top CFO because he’s a strategic leader who can do deals, manage multiple stakeholders and drive growth. He’s been a leader in the past at publicly traded companies like Exelon or ITC, and earlier in his career at firms including Banc of America Securities or Lazard.
EVP, Chief Financial Officer: Microsoft
Recruitors credit Hood with being a “business-minded”CFO with extensive management experience and strong track record. Along with overseeing significant acquisitions and investments in key growth areas, Hood has been at the forefront of Microsoft’s digital transformation. Equally important, she has long been viewed as a partner to CEO Satya Nadella in bolstering the company’s culture and commitment to initiatives around sustainability. She has gained a wider view of the global business landscape through her five years of service on the board at 3M.
President & CEO, USA: Siemens
Humpton is the CEO of the U.S. division of the industrial giant. He also leads a $17billion business in America’s largest market. Humpton also chairs the company’s foundation and serves on several nonprofit boards, along with hosting Siemens USA’s Optimistic Outlook podcast. She previously headed Siemens Government Technologies. She also held senior roles at Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Lockheed Martin.
Chief Financial Officer: Delta
Janki joined Delta last year after a stint at GE where he managed and repositioned the power business and held key positions in finance, shared service and investor relations. He’s seen as a strong operational and strategic leader who can help you invest for growth. One observer stated it as follows: “a true CFO-plus who is on his way to being a CEO.”
R. Alexandra Keith
CEO, P&G Beauty
The Geneva, Switzerland-based executive is responsible for the $14.8 million Beauty business at P&G. It’s a company that has a long history of growing talent and where she spent her entire career. Keith, better known as Alex has led the company’s Beauty portfolio for six years straight, reversing seven years in decline. Keith is a board member of Thermo Fisher Scientific and helps to lead the company’s sustainability efforts.
CEO International Beverages & Chief commercial Officer: PepsiCo
Krishnan brings a data geek’s mind and a philosopher’s outlook to his work, whether he’s helping to transform Cadillac or marketing at Frito Lay. You can find his blog here RamalyticsHe sets out to explore the intersection between “tech, data, and humanity in a fast-moving world.”One recruiter calls him “aRecruiter”. “leader who really thinks about leadership and the responsibility that brings.”
Amazon SVP, Devices & Services
Limp is a major force in “ambient computing” – creating a technology-embedded environment in which devices like Alexa interact seamlessly with humans and each other. He also oversees Amazon’s $10 billion Project Kuiper to build a network of satellites in low-earth orbit with the goal of delivering high-speed internet worldwide, as well as Zoox. Limp is a promising candidate for the CEO position. One recruiter praises Limp’s ability to lead and build teams. The problem may be convincing Limp to leave.
Cofounder & Chief Technology Officer: Zoox
Levinson was the quintessential CTO when he cofounded the autonomous vehicle startup Zoox in 2014 – a brilliant young researcher who’d developed the algorithms for Stanford’s $1-million winning entry in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. When his board ousted cofounder Tim Kentley-Klay as CEO, they hired Aicha Evans to run Zoox–and sell it to Amazon a year later. Although Levinson is still responsible for the technology, he has developed a wider leadership presence. He is able to get good advice from his dad Arthur Levinson, who chairs the Apple board and runs Calico Labs.
President, Bayer U.S. & president, Consumer Health, North America Bayer
Lockwood Taylor joined Bayer in 2018 to lead consumer health in North America. Two years later, Lockwood-Taylor was appointed as the U.S. Operations Manager for Bayer Group. He added crop science and pharmaceuticals to his portfolio. Bayer has been a leader in topics such as food security thanks to the Procter & Gamble veteran. His previous leadership roles included being CEO of Oneida Group. One recruiter attributes Lockwood-Taylor’s ability to have a positive impact on his company. “measurable impact on organic growth”Bayer was a slow-growing company and he was well-known for his handling of the lawsuits that Bayer inherited from Monsanto.
Chief Operating Officer: Cisco
A resume that reads like a resume “who’s who” of Big Tech, Martinez has made stops at Cisco, Salesforce, Microsoft and AT&T’s Bell Labs—but she’s also been CEO of a small startup. She is now the Cisco operations manager. Her responsibilities include overseeing strategy, customer experience and IT. “transformation” efforts. She was previously Cisco’s chief Customer Experience Officer.
Chief Financial Officer: Citigroup
Mason was instrumental in helping Citi deliver strong results in volatile markets. Mason was also instrumental in Citi’s $1B initiative to close the racial inequality in wealth. Mason’s wealth management and operational experience are valuable, but recruiters also say Mason’s experience at Lucent and Marakon Associates in strategy roles has given him a wider range of skills and experiences than his peers in the finance function.
Chief Financial Officer: ServiceNow
The rapid growth of the workflow software firm means that its executives are closely watched by recruiters looking for candidates who can manage that kind of expansion at a company in a new sector. Mastantuono, a board member of software platforms Roblox & Gong is what one recruiter calls “a recruiter”. “CFO-plus,”An executive who is not only a top performer within the finance function, but also thinks like a leader in strategic operations across the firm.
Chief Operating Officer: EA
Miele is not only one of the most prominent women in the gaming industry but also one of few executives who can juggle both a creative role and an operational one. Her experience makes Miele a formidable competitor, and one that many executives want to hire. Miele, who is passionate about games, brought a renewed focus to players and creative talent.
EVP & Chief Financial Officer: Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola announced in July that its president and chief operating officers would be retiring in February. Murphy, the beverage giant’s chief financial officer, would take the title of president on October 1. It seems that Murphy, 60, an Irishman with a global background that includes leadership stints at the company’s former Asia Pacific group and parts its Latin American unit, could be next in line to succeed James Quincey, the current CEO.
President, Consumer and Marketplace: Nike
O’Neill leads Nike’s direct consumer business, which includes all stores, e-commerce and app sales globally, as well as its marketplace partners organization and the Nike brand in four major global geographies. She has built Nike’s direct to consumer business over the past 24 years, as well its women’s division which is now a multibillion-dollar business. As a marketer by trade, she leads a substantial portion of Nike’s operations. This makes her a strong candidate to lead a major company, according to recruiters.
Chief Customer Officer, CVS Health & Co-President, CVS Pharmacy: CVS
Peluso’s diverse career includes industry-hopping in health care and pharmacy (her current job), technology (IBM), financial and fashion services (Citigroup), as well as technology (Citigroup). Peluso was a CEO in her own right, leading a turnaround at Travelocity during her 30s. However, the common thread runs through it all: a focus on digital sales and marketing, which skills recruiters say are increasingly in demand in the CEO’s role.
Chief Customer Officer at Best Buy
Peterson is widely credited with creating innovative programs that have increased loyalty, doubled online revenues, and kept Amazon away. While she is believed to be in a strong position to become the next CEO of the company, recruiters also point out her experience in omnichannel strategy and brand strategy that has far more value than retail.
CEO, Fabric & House Care: Procter & Gamble
Raman heads P&G’s largest business. It accounts for about one third of sales and iconic brands such as Swiffer, Febreze, and Tide. Recruiters point out his track record of innovation, which has seen him launch products such as Tide Pods. “He’s a humble, authentic and decisive leader who understands how to succeed in the complex matrix of P&G,”One person also believes Raman has helped to bring more attention to diversity and inclusion initiatives. His role can also be seen as a step towards the top, as Shailesh Jejurikaris, his predecessor, is now COO.
VP, Product management: Google
Samat, who oversees both the Android and Google Play product lines, comes to Google having already managed two successful startups. As head of the world’s biggest app store, Samat is also navigating the compromises needed to address concerns from developers and antitrust regulators. He also announced an initiative to create a more racially inclusive camera for Google’s Pixel devices. Such experiences are essential for leaders in a world where Big Tech is under increasing scrutiny. One recruiter claims that he’s often the top choice of e-commerce companies looking for a CEO.
Chief Financial Officer: Stripe
Suryadevara was Stripe’s Chief Financial Officer. Her experience as a CFO has seen the company grow during a period when it was experiencing rapid growth. This will make her attractive for other boards. Suryadevara, with her experience as CFO at General Motors, has the kinda resume she needs. “wins every award under the sun; she’s an absolute rock star,”One executive search leader stated that she was impressed by the results. She is a top executive at a company still founded and is on many recruiters’ radar screens.
Global Customer Success Strategy & Executive Vice President: Salesforce
Taychakhoonavudh, co-CEO Marc Benioff, is regarded as one of the most important executives in Marc Benioff’s team. “universally admired”One recruiter said that it is the type of leader others follow. Before her current role, she was the head of the team that developed strategies to support Salesforce’s customers across different industries. She joined Salesforce in 2009 from Oracle and could be ready to make her next move.
EVP – Sustainability & Strategy: Union Pacific
When Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz announced in February that Whited would oversee the push to become the nation’s No. 1 supply chain logistics provider and help the railroad reach net zero by 2050—while continuing to oversee human resources—he praised her as “the perfect person to lead Union Pacific in these critical areas.”Whited has a track of success in many roles at the company, including marketing and distribution, as well enhancing the HR function. One recruiter echoes her boss’s sentiments, arguing that “few people know that company or the industry better than Beth.”
Ather Williams III
Head of Strategy, Innovation, and Digital: Wells Fargo
Williams has worked at three top financial services firms—Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan—and sits at the intersection of strategy and digital change management that’s pivotal to banks’ operations today. According to recruiters, he has transformed Wells Fargo’s digitization efforts and managed to stay ahead of the fray during recent scandals. This could allow him to lead a regional banking institution.
Chief Product Officer: Slack
Yehoshua is one recruiter “a bit of a dream mix for tech firms,” as a chief product officer with an engineering background who also manages product—an increasingly common path in the tech world for up-and-coming CEOs. After having managed some of Google’s most significant product categories, such as search, identity, and privacy, she joined Slack.