Famous figures with an MBA degree

A Master of Business Administration is globally regarded as a top program for making it in the world of business. Here are just a few celebrities and famous figures who have an MBA.



Shaquille O'Neal – basketball player

Shaquille O'Neal stands on a basketball court with a basketball in his hands, preparing to shoot
Photo: Keith Allison @ Wikimedia Commons

Legendary basketball player and four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal gained an MBA degree through online learning.


After high school, O’Neal became a business student at Louisiana State University, where he made waves in basketball. He did not complete his undergraduate degree, however, dropping out after three years to play in the NBA.


He later fulfilled the promise he made to his mother to complete his education, achieving a degree in general studies in 2000, after which he gained his MBA online at the University of Phoenix.


In reference to his MBA, O’Neal said “It's just something to have on my resume for when I go back into reality. Someday I might have to put down a basketball and have a regular 9-to-5 like everybody else.”


With his passion for learning revived, O’Neal went on to gain a doctorate in education, trained as a sportscaster and studied directing and cinematography, as well as noting that he would like to attend law school.



Lisa Leslie – basketball player

Lisa Leslie stands outside and is holding a microphone giving a speech
Photo: Gage Skidmore @ Wikimedia Commons

Having completed an undergraduate degree in communications in California, professional basketball player Lisa Leslie moved to the University of Phoenix to undergo her MBA in 2009 - all whilst playing elite-level basketball.


In 2017, she put her business skills to the test by taking part in The Celebrity Apprentice.



Phil Knight – founder of Nike

Phil Knight is stood turned away from the camera and is speaking and wearing a black baseball hat
Photo: Neon Tommy @ Wikimedia Commons

Nike is one of the world’s most recognizable brands and it came from the mind of a man with an MBA.


Knight’s career was varied before he launched Blue Ribbon Sports (later Nike). Having earned a journalism degree from the University of Oregon in 1959 and gained experience as a sports reporter, he joined the army, before completing his MBA at Stanford. He also worked as an accounting professor and as an accountant at PwC.


On a trip to Japan soon after graduating, Knight was impressed by Tiger running shoes and made a deal with the head of their manufacturer Onitsuka Co. to distribute them in the United States. His American customers were impressed by the shoes and his Oregon running coach, Bill Bowerman, agreed to go into business with him to make original shoe designs.


In 1964, just two years after writing a paper titled "Can Japanese Sports Shoes Do to German Sports Shoes What Japanese Cameras Did to German Cameras?" as part of his MBA, Nike was born.



Melinda Gates – philanthropist and former general manager of Microsoft

Melinda Gates is stood and is giving a speech to a room of business people
Photo credit: DFID @ Wikimedia Commons

Melinda Gates may be most famous for her work with husband Bill Gates on their charitable Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but she accomplished much in the world of business long before this.


With an undergraduate background of computer science and economics, Gates next completed an MBA at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She then went from being marketing manager at Microsoft, to working on building travel site Expedia, to returning to Microsoft as a general manager.


She has since consistently ranked highly on the annual Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list.



Tim Cook – CEO of Apple Inc.

Tim Cook stands on a stage and gives a speech
Photo credit: Austin Community College @ Wikimedia Commons

Also using their MBA in the tech world is chief executive officer of Apple Inc., Tim Cook. Cook gained a degree in industrial engineering in his home state of Alabama, before moving to Duke University for his MBA, graduating in 1988.


At the same time as studying, Cook worked within the personal computer department of IBM, acting as director of North American fulfillment. His first move up to the COO realm was at Intelligent Electronics, and he became vice president for corporate materials at Compaq.


Cook joined Apple in 1998, and quickly became instrumental in streamlining distribution processes and launching iconic products such as the iPod, the iPad and the iPhone. Today, he serves on the boards of Nike and the National Football Association alongside his work at Apple.



Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook

Sheryl Sandberg gives a speech on stage
Photo credit: World Economic Forum @ Wikimedia Commons

Sheryl Sandberg acts as the chief operating officer of Facebook, the world’s largest social media site, and gained her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1995 with the highest distinction.


Having worked in management consulting and within the Department of the Treasury, Sandberg joined Google. Here, she grew the ad and sales team from four people to 4,000.


In 2008, she joined Facebook as COO after meeting Mark Zuckerberg at a party, and set to work on using her business skills to make Facebook profitable something that was achieved just two years later.


Sandberg has been on the boards of The Walt Disney Company, Women for Women International, Starbucks and Survey Monkey.



George W. Bush – former president of the United States

George W. Bush stands on stage and gives a speech
Photo credit: Chris Greenberg @ Wikimedia Commonss

Your father previously holding the job may help you get to know the ins and outs of it, but the skills learned through his MBA degree would certainly have aided former US president George W. Bush lead the country.


Bush gained a history degree at Yale University, before attending Harvard Business School for his MBA. He remains the only US president to have earned an MBA.



Start your MBA journey today with Eton University. Learn more about our MBA programs on offer.


18 views0 comments