High-flying CEOs

Author: Kate Lunau

Richard Branson, the swashbuckling CEO of Virgin Group, once crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a speedboat. He’s crossed the Atlantic and Pacific by hot air balloon, too, and recently announced plans to explore the ocean’s deepest points in a custom-built submarine. Branson also likes to fly airplanes—something he apparently has in common with Larry Ellison of Oracle and Eric Schmidt of Google—which could say a lot about his management style. According to a new study, a CEO who enjoys the adrenalin rush of flying private planes is more likely to be a bold, risk-taking leader, and Branson seems to be a case in point: after all, he launched space tourism company Virgin Galactic, which calls itself the world’s first spaceline.

In the study, finance professors Stephen McKeon of the University of Oregon and Matthew Cain of the University of Notre Dame searched the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification database and other records; using this, they then compared 179 corporate executives who hold private pilots’ licences to 2,900 non-pilot CEOs. (Branson wasn’t included in the study, because it only looked at public companies.) Interestingly, none of the pilot CEOs they identified were women.

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