Sign up for a free Courant newsletter for a chance to win $100 P.C. Richard gift card

President Bezos? President Zuckerberg? 2020 could feature Trump vs. CEO

As talk of the 2020 presidential election ratchets up, you wonder how many well-known CEOs are toying with the idea of running for the White House.

Their rationale: If businessman Donald Trump did it and won, why not me?

Already this year, a couple of CEOs have embarked on tours, through the Chicago area and elsewhere, that are ostensibly meant to tout business but resemble political whistle-stop campaigns.

Here's my admittedly speculative list of potential business-leaders-turned-presidential-contenders. Spoiler alert: Most of these corporate chiefs say they are not running, but you know how that goes.

Mark Zuckerberg. Since last year, the Facebook CEO has been traveling the country on some type of broadly defined listening tour. During his travels, he's been expanding and lining up contacts with multitudes of Facebook users and scores of local community leaders.

In his grass-roots talks and online posts, Zuckerberg touts a social agenda that calls for more effectively treating drug addiction, reforming the juvenile justice system and ending economic disparity.

Not your typical CEO talking points.

By the way, the Zuckerberg expedition came to Chicago in June amid an entourage and security team worthy of a presidential hopeful. Even if he isn't running, he sure knows how to act like a candidate.

In an email to me, Facebook said Zuckerberg is not expected to seek public office.

Jamie Dimon. The CEO of banking giant JP Morgan Chase, which has a major Chicago-area presence, is also making the rounds.

He's been giving TV interviews about the state of the economy. This week Dimon rolled through Chicago, connecting with Chase staffers as part of a company bus tour through the Midwest.

During his discussions, Dimon is pressing the country's leadership to get its act together and "collectively" boost economic growth and create more jobs. He chides U.S. leaders for not moving more aggressively to restrain industry regulations.

In late 2016, Dimon told business and political leaders at a Washington presentation that he'd "love to be president" (he was responding to a question) but added he didn't think it was likely.

The Chase chief denies he's on the stump now, saying his recent remarks are merely those of an engaged citizen. Dimon is not "stepping into the arena," according to an email JP Morgan Chase sent me.

Howard Schultz. The executive chairman and former CEO of Starbucks was slow to knock down talk of a possible presidential play in 2016.

Could Schultz saddle up for 2020? Sure, he could.

Schultz will have more time on his hands since recently resigning as Starbucks CEO. More intriguing, he's not a fan of Trump.

Earlier this year Schultz told a gathering of employees that Trump was creating "chaos" that was damaging the economy, a comment confirmed by Starbucks.

Based on his track record of running Starbucks, a Schultz effort would likely be more pro-immigration than the present administration and in favor of expanding individual health care insurance.

"Howard has no plans to run for political office," Starbucks said in an email.

Jeff Bezos. The CEO of ubiquitous online retailer Amazon is an interesting prospect.

In his tweets, the president has chided the continually growing Amazon for potentially violating U.S. antitrust laws. In addition, Bezos personally owns The Washington Post, a newspaper that's published some tough stories about Trump's presidency.

Could Bezos want to even the score by supplanting Trump? While it could be a kick to see a Trump-Bezos contest, it seems a remote possibility.

Bezos professes to be more interested in new horizons than running a country. The man is building a stand-alone company to explore outer space while expanding Amazon. For Bezos, the job of being president may not be big enough.

(Amazon did not return my email asking for comment.)

There are other corporate names cropping up.

They include: Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook; Tim Cook, CEO of Apple; Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and a 2016 Republican presidential candidate; and Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and a network TV personality.

Like I said, this is a highly speculative column.

Of course, there are going to be plenty of experienced politicians joining the 2020 presidential fray too.

No one knows how the next presidential campaign will shape up or who will make up the field of candidates.

Trump vs. a CEO?

Yeah, it could happen.

roreed@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @reedtribbiz

Copyright © 2017, CT Now