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Top Four Nice CEOs of 2011

With turning in the list of "naughty CEOs" of 2011, we thought we would return to Christmas cheer by offering the counterpoint. So, without further ado, we present the four nicest

With turning in the list of “naughty CEOs” of 2011, we thought we would return to Christmas cheer by offering the counterpoint. So, without further ado, we present the four nicest CEOs of 2011.

It’s important to note that the list was compiled based solely on this year’s performance. As such, Warren Buffett gets passed over. Were this a list of the greatest all-time CEOs, maybe Warren makes the list, but Berkshire-Hathaway (BRK.A) is actually off about 2.5 percent for 2011. What’s more, the list isn’t geared towards identifying CEOs who are nice because of their personality, behavior, or corporate ethics. We’re gonna leave that ball firmly in Santa’s court.  Instead, we’re going to focus on something that’s immediately quantifiable: the success of their companies on the market.

The ULTA-ment CEO

4. Carl S. Rubin, Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance, Inc. (ULTA) – Carl S. Rubin took over as CEO at Ulta Salon in May of 2010 and, since then, he’s produced a ho-hum tripling of the company’s share value. The nearly 200 percent jump in shares resulted in a nearly $3.25 billion increase in market cap. Rubin came to the Bolingbrook, IL-based company from Office Depot (ODP) where he served as President of the North American Retail division. Rubin’s illustrious career also includes six years at Accenture (ACN) with three of those coming as a partner. During his time at Ulta, Rubin has managed to leverage the already successful chain into a retail cosmetics giant. Jeffries analysts reaffirmed their hold rating on the stock, which reached a new 52-week high on Monday, while increasing the target price from $60 to $65, stating:  “Management remains extremely focused on a variety of long term initiatives, which are all on track or ahead of plan. Notably, sqft guidance for next year was raised to the high end of the long term 15-20% range, as their real estate pipleline is robust and new stores are performing above expectations. The new DC should also help support store growth. Importantly, mgmt reiterated their operating margin goals which we view positively.”

Not Just Another Cog on a Wheel

3. Dan O. Dinges, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation (COG) – Dan Dinges has been the CEO at Cabot since May of 2002, and this last year as been one of his best. Share value is up over 125 percent since January, a strong return that has pushed the stock to its all time high of $90 per share on Friday. Benefitting from fracking operations in the Marcellus Shale in the Northeast United States, Cabot has continued to turn in solid numbers and seen its shares steadily rise throughout the year. Dinges, who has been at the helm for the company’s meteoric rise, has positioned the company well to take full advantage of the new opportunities being provided by Fracking. While reaffirming their “outperform” rating, analysts at Zacks Investment Research stated that “We are maintaining our Outperform recommendation on shares of Cabot Oil & Gas, reflecting its impressive exposure to the high-return Marcellus and Eagle Ford Shale plays, as well as its above-average production growth. …A relatively low risk profile and longer reserve lives are other positives in the Cabot story. Considering these factors, we believe Cabot is well positioned going forward and consider it an attractive investment.”

It’s Elementary

2. Steven L. Watson, Valhi, Inc. (VHI) – Valhi is a holding company that works in chemicals, components, and waste management through several subsidiaries, including Kronos Worldwide, Inc. (KRO). Watson is pulling double duty, acting as CEO of both Kronos and Valhi since 2009. However, his guidance of Valhi can’t be questioned as the company has seen its shares go up over 185 percent in 2011. Valhi benefited greatly from an increase in the price of  titanium dioxide products, which Kronos manufactures, of almost 41 percent and reported a better-than 500 percent year over year increase in their Q3 profits this November. Watson’s careful leadership through these immensely profitable times lands him on our list of Nice CEOs.

Unquestionable Success

1. Don M. Bailey, Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (QCOR) – Don M. Bailey joined Questcor as interim President in May of 2007 and ascended to his current position in November of that same year. And in that time, Questcor has seen its stock jump from just under $1 per share to a new all-time high of over $45 a share just this last week. His stewardship of the company in 2011 has resulted in an over 190 percent increase in share value as well. The explosion of value could partially be derrived from the success of its H.P. Acthar Gel for treating patients with Multiple Sclerosis. Bailey, who has a bachelors from Drexel, a Masters from USC, and a M.B.A. from Pepperdine, stated his continued optimism about the direction of the company in the Q2 earnings report earlier this year: “[W]e remain excited about our growth prospects going forward. Thus far we had a grown sales and earnings at a high rate, while at the same time generating a large amount of free cash from operations. We believe that we are in a position to continue the strength.”