There's no question that the world's elite businesspeople wield great power. But, as the '76 Ford Mustang taught us, power without sex appeal is, well – who cares? Our selections below – the 9 sexiest people in business – are the Ferraris and Aston Martins of world commerce. When they lay rubber, they look hot doing it – and their smoke fills your nostrils.
Sexy CEOs? Oh, they exist, and we’ve rounded up accomplished leaders, from the fashion biz to the automotive industry, posted their headshots (without any information attached) by the watercooler of an international company and asked for ratings and comments – the most memorable yet still publishable of which we’ve added below to the list of our top-scoring nine.
Shallow of us? Yes, but there is a kernel of learning here. To wit: the recent Duke University study, in which Fuqua School of Business profs asked their students to view CEO headshots and rate them on a scale of one to five for attractiveness, competence, likeability, and trustworthiness. Those who rated highest got paid more, the study found, no matter how well their company had actually performed. Beauty equals money.
9. Gina Bianchini: Executive in residence, Andreessen Horowitz, ex-CEO Ning
MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE: A Stanford Business school grad who worked her way up through Goldman Sachs and CKS, Bianchini co-founded her own communications agency, which was acquired by Dentsu. Then she partnered with Marc “Netscape” Andreesen to co-found Ning, a social networking platform that lets users create their own themed networks.
She hit a rough patch earlier this year, when she was replaced as CEO by Ning’s COO Jason Rosenthal as part of an overhaul of the platform’s tumultuous but so-far successful switch from free to paid subscriptions.
WHO THINKS SHE'S HOT? Another perennial on Sexy CEO lists, the stunning Bianchini would be topping this list if not for her recent career hiccup.
WHAT THE WATER COOLER SAID: “She has a virginal, ethereal quality that makes my stomach flip. Would it be weird if I asked to paint her?”
8. Julie Smolyansky: Chief Executive Officer, President and Director, Lifeway Foods Inc.
MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE: When her father suddenly died and Smolyansky, at the tender age of 27, had to step into his shoes as head of the family health-drink corporation, she became one of the youngest-ever CEOs of a publicly traded American company.
She’s been at the helm since, growing the company – in her first two years sales rose by 34 percent – and landing it regularly on Forbes’ list of the 200 Best Small Companies in America.
WHAT THE WATER COOLER SAID: “I'll buy whatever she's selling – even if it is cultured vitamin milk.”
7. Dennis Crowley: Co-founder and CEO, Foursquare
MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE: In 2000, Crowley and a friend started Dodgeball, a geographically-based social networking site that was snapped up by Google in 2005. Things didn’t go well, and Crowley left the company behind in 2007 after what he described as an “incredibly frustrating” experience.
By 2009 he’d launched Foursquare, a new improved version of the same concept. It’s the reason why all your friends are annoyingly “checking in” on their iPhones any time you go anywhere, and it’s a genuine phenomenon, with 4.5 million users as of November 2010, and partnerships with the New York Times, Zagat, Condé Nast and a host of other trad media looking for social network buzz.
WHO THINKS HE’S HOT? Well, David Fincher hasn’t made a movie about him yet, but in the hothouse world of social media entrepreneurs, Crowley has a non-geek vibe that stands out. Proof? He and Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai were deemed photogenic enough to be featured in a recent Gap ad.
WHAT THE WATER COOLER SAID: “Tousled surfer-boy! Num!”
6. Marissa Mayer: VP of geographic and local services, Google
MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE: The youngest woman ever to make Forbes’s 50 Most Powerful Women List, the 35-year old is the public spokesperson for the Internet behemoth’s most high-profile initiatives, and gatekeeper for every new design, feature and detail. If you internet, you Google, and if you Google, it’s Marissa Mayer’s aesthetic that you live in.
WHO THINKS SHE'S HOT? Google “marissa mayer hot” and just see the results that come up. Why, she’s adorable, sexy-intelligent, girl-next-door gorgeous and – wait just a minute! There’s something fishy here that we just can’t quite put our fingers on. Okay, she was chosen as one of Glamour mag’s women of the year in 2009, and she shows up in endless lists of Top 10 Sexy Geeks and the like. But still: what search engine is delivering this information?
WHAT THE WATER COOLER SAID: “Really attractive – for IT.”
5. Jeff Swartz: President, Chief Executive Officer and Director, Timberland
MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE: Grandson of the New Hampshire-based boots and outdoorsy clothing company’s founder, Swartz was studying medicine when his grandfather Nathan was killed by a drunk driver and he decided to go into the family business. In 1998 he became head exec, just in time to see sneaker culture explode globally and threaten to do away with Timberland’s business entirely.
Times got tough and Swartz had to make grim decisions, including laying off staff and closing 43 outlets. But since the dog days of 2007, Swarz has managed to turn the company back from the brink, seeing a recovery in profits and stock price.
WHO THINKS HE'S HOT? He quotes Victorian poet Robert Browning in interviews, is deeply committed to sustainability issues and is genuinely outdoorsy. He’s the thinking woman’s captain of industry/sex object.
WHAT THE WATER COOLER SAID: “Soulful. Preppy-beddable.”
4. Tamara Mellon: Chief Creative Office and co-founder of Jimmy Choo
MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE: In 1996, Mellon, then best known as accessories editor at British Vogue, borrowed 150,00 pounds from her father and invested it into a label no one had heard of. By 2010 that company was world-famous, name-dropped on TV shows and worth close to 500 million pounds.
As the Guardian pointed out in 2004, Jimmy Choo is one of the most successful fashion labels ever to be launched in Britain. In 2010, Mellon was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire and named as a global trade envoy for the United Kingdom. She is currently ranked the 64th richest woman in the country.
WHO THINKS SHE’S HOT? Everybody. Mellon is a fashion and gossip page fixture, partly because of the success of Jimmy Choo, but mostly because of her impossibly glamorous lifestyle and sultry good looks. Once married to troubled banking heir Matthew Mellon, she’s a member of the global A-list (despite being linked romantically to Kid Rock and Christian Slater) and recently posed nude – with a strategically placed kitten (NSFW) – for Terry Richardson in Interview magazine.
WHAT THE WATER COOLER SAID: “Kid Rock? Ewww. That makes her seem half as hot than she is.”
3. Ivan G. Seidenberg: Chairman and CEO, Verizon Communications
MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE: A Brooklyn-born, decorated Vietnam vet who started his career as a cable-splicer’s assistant, Seidenberg has risen to the top, becoming CEO of America’s largest telephone company in 2002. A Ma Bell lifer, he’s survived break-ups, mergers, and the 1996 Telecommunications Act to become a seasoned, visionary player both in corporate boardrooms and Washington backrooms.
As the world moves steadily away from landlines, he’s been able to keep one step ahead, controlling the country’s largest mobile phone company while moving heavily into fiber optics.
WHO THINKS HE’S HOT? Well, those Duke University Students certainly do, giving him above-average marks for attractiveness, while most media profiles like to emphasize his intense personal charm and working-class roots. Still, some aren’t bowled over. After Seidenberg, who took home just above U.S. $17 million in compensation in 2009, gave a speech in June 2010 complaining about government intrusions on personal wealth, the New York Times’ Frank Rich described the speech as “rank with self-victimization” and Washington Post business columnist Steven Perlstein called him a “corporate hack.” Maybe they’re just jealous?
WHAT THE WATER COOLER SAID: “Foxy. Like a Jewish Tom Hanks, but more rugged.”
2. Anne Sweeney: Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks and President, Disney-ABC Television Group
MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE: She’s the grand poobah of ABC-TV, all 94 international Disney Channels, publishing house Hyperion and a smattering of other key elements of the entertainment giant. Her career includes influential stints at FX and Nickelodeon. She’s been named one of the world’s 100 most powerful women by Forbes, one of the business world’s 50 most powerful women by Fortune, the most powerful woman in Hollywood by multiple entertainment media outlets, and has a mantel buckling under the weight of industry awards, lifetime honours, and hall of fame inductions.
WHO THINKS SHE’S HOT? Anne Sweeney is a powerful and accomplished woman and choosing to define her by her looks is reprehensible, reductive behavior in this day and age. When lists like this one and CEOWorld’s Top 20 Sexiest Celebrity Women in Business include Anne Sweeney in some sort of beauty contest we should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves for considering her one hot tamale.
WHAT THE WATER COOLER SAID: “That skin! Those eyes! Irish MILF.”
1. Tom Ford: fashion designer, film director
MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE: Ford is the American designer who turned fading Italian luxury brand Gucci from a has-been into a fashion industry powerhouse in the 90s. He's shown remarkable talent both as a creative force and as a businessman: as creative director in charge of multiple product lines, he helped turn Gucci into a $10 billion business.
After leaving Gucci Group in 2004, Ford successfully launched his own brand of menswear and accessories, with 21 store locations around the world to date. In 2009, he launched a new career as a film director with his Colin Firth-starring film A Single Man, which was received with respectful if not wildly enthusiastic reviews, and in 2010 he created a buzz by returning to women’s fashion with a hotly anticipated collection.
WHO THINKS HE’S HOT? People Magazine, for one. Back in 1997, he was named one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world in their annual round-up of shiny happy humans, and he doesn't seem to have aged much since then. For the 2006 issue of Vanity Fair he guest art-directed, Ford invited himself onto the cover with actresses Scarlett Johansson and Kiera Knightly, and did not look out of place.
WHAT THE WATER COOLER SAID: “He’s gorgeous. He’s too gorgeous. He’s the kind of good-looking you don’t trust.”