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Chief Executive Officer

The Chief Executive Officer is the top-ranking executive officer of a corporation.

Expanded Definition

The CEO is the gal running the whole show. She's ultimately responsible for the economic condition of the company as well as its direction and corporate culture. In a larger public company, the CEO likely will delegate day-to-day decisions to managers and supervisors after receiving policy decisions and overarching goals from the board of directors (who are elected by shareholders). The job description of the CEO can vary by company and some CEOs might be more high-profile than others, such as Apple's Steve Jobs, who is also a co-founder and the distinctive public face of the company.

The CEO is the liaison between the board of directors, who represent shareholders, and the managers of the company. A CEO can also be a member of the board of directors.

You don't need to be able to pick the CEO of your company out of a lineup -- and hopefully you won't have to -- but you want to know about things like her history with the company, her management skills and style, her experience in the industry, whether she's been involved in any scandals, and how much company stock she owns (and whether she's buying or selling it, and why).

Potential investors should also check SEC filings including form DEF 14A or company documents/proxy statements to find out how much the CEO is paid and whether that pay is tied to performance. Executives with compensation that rises with good performance have more incentive to make the company succeed. Are the executives' interests aligned with shareholders'? Compensation can include salary, benefits, bonuses, and stock options. Look to see how your CEO's compensation compares to others in the same industry.

In Europe, the top ranking executive officer is often titled Managing Director.

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