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CEO vs. Owner: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 7, 2023
A CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is the highest-ranking executive in a company, responsible for major decisions, while an owner holds the property rights to the company.

Key Differences

A CEO, or Chief Executive Officer, is the top executive in a company, responsible for making major corporate decisions, managing overall operations, and being the primary point of communication between the board of directors and corporate operations. On the other hand, an owner is someone who possesses the company, either partially or wholly, and has a financial stake in its success or failure. The owner holds equity in the company and benefits from its profits.
The role of a CEO is more about leadership and strategic direction, focusing on the daily management and operational success of the company. The CEO is often appointed by the board of directors or the owner(s). While, an owner has a more direct financial interest in the company and may or may not be involved in daily operations. Ownership implies control over assets and equity of the business.
In some cases, especially in smaller companies or startups, the CEO can also be the owner. However, in larger corporations, these roles are usually separate, with the CEO being an employee who is answerable to the owner(s) or shareholders. The owner has the ultimate authority over the company, including decisions about the CEO's appointment or dismissal.
The CEO is accountable for the performance of the company to the board of directors or the owner(s), focusing on implementing strategies, policies, and decisions that align with the company's goals. The owner, especially in privately-held companies, may set these overarching goals and objectives based on their vision for the business.
Compensation for a CEO typically includes salary, bonuses, and sometimes shares in the company, depending on its policy and the CEO's contract. An owner profits directly from the company's success through dividends, increased equity value, or profits from selling the business.

Comparison Chart


Top executive responsible for operational decisions
Holds property rights and equity in the company


Daily management, implementing strategies
Overall ownership, financial stake in the company

Position in Company

Appointed as an employee
Possesses the company, may or may not be involved in management


Answerable to the board or owners
Ultimate authority over the company

Financial Interest

Salary, bonuses, sometimes company shares
Direct profits from equity and company success

CEO and Owner Definitions


Chief executive officer, top-ranking executive in a company.
The CEO announced a new strategic direction for the company.


Someone who possesses the company fully or partially.
The owner invested significant capital into the new project.


Manages overall operations and resources.
As the CEO, she streamlined the company's processes.


Controls assets and equity of the business.
The owner approved the sale of a company asset.


Acts as the main point of communication between the board and corporate operations.
The CEO will report this quarter's results to the board.


Has a financial stake and benefits from profits.
As the owner, he receives a portion of the company's annual profits.


Responsible for making major corporate decisions.
The CEO decided to expand the company's operations overseas.


May set overall goals and objectives of the business.
The owner's vision is to make the company eco-friendly.


Implements strategies and policies aligned with company goals.
The CEO introduced new policies to enhance employee welfare.


May or may not be involved in daily operations.
The owner visits the company occasionally to oversee operations.


(aviation) CEO


Of or belonging to oneself or itself
She makes her own clothes.


The corporate executive responsible for the operations of the firm; reports to a board of directors; may appoint other managers (including a president)


That which belongs to one
I wanted a room of my own.


Can a company have multiple CEOs?

Yes, though uncommon, some companies have co-CEOs.

What does CEO stand for?

CEO stands for Chief Executive Officer.

What is the role of a CEO?

The CEO is the highest-ranking executive in a company, responsible for making major corporate decisions, managing overall operations, and acting as the main point of communication between the board of directors and corporate operations.

How is a CEO chosen?

A CEO is typically appointed by the board of directors of the company.

What qualifications are needed to be a CEO?

Qualifications vary but usually include extensive experience, leadership skills, and often higher education, like an MBA.

Is a CEO always part of the board of directors?

Often, but not always. It depends on the company's structure.

Can a CEO fire the owner?

No, the CEO cannot fire the owner. The owner or shareholders can fire the CEO.

Is an owner always involved in daily operations?

Not necessarily. Some owners are hands-on, while others are not directly involved in day-to-day operations.

What's the difference between a CEO and a president?

In some companies, the CEO is the highest-ranking officer, while the president is second in command. However, in some organizations, the roles and titles may be merged or used interchangeably.

What are the responsibilities of an owner?

An owner's responsibilities vary but typically include investing capital, making key business decisions, and bearing the business’s financial risks.

Does a CEO own the company?

Not necessarily. A CEO is the top executive but doesn't have to be the owner.

Can an owner be a CEO?

Yes, especially in smaller companies or startups, the owner can also serve as the CEO.

Is the CEO the highest-paid position in a company?

Often, but not always. It depends on the company's compensation structure.

Do all owners have the same amount of power?

No, it depends on the percentage of ownership and the company's legal structure.

How is an owner different from an investor?

An owner has control and decision-making power in a business, whereas an investor only has financial interest without direct control, unless they are a major shareholder or part of the board.

What does it mean to be an owner?

An owner is someone who possesses ownership in a business entity in terms of equity or shares.

Can an owner sell their company?

Yes, owners can sell their business or shares in the business.

How does one become an owner?

One can become an owner by starting a business, buying a business, or acquiring shares in a business.

What's the difference between a shareholder and an owner?

A shareholder owns a part of the company through shares, which can make them a part-owner, especially in larger companies.

Can an owner be liable for company debts?

It depends on the business structure. In sole proprietorships and partnerships, owners can be personally liable, but in corporations, liability is usually limited.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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