John D. Nichols
Though not a name brand, Illinois Tool Works, a manufacturer of component industrial parts, has been recognized by Wall Street and Fortune for superior financial and management performance. Much of that credit is due to Nichols. He established a strong decentralized management structure that promoted innovation, resulting in over 100 new product patents and line extensions. During his tenure as CEO, Nichols generated a tenfold increase in revenues from $450 million to $4.1 billion and regularly achieved 20%+ annual returns on shareholder equity.