Fortune's Fantasy Sports Exec League: We have a winner

July 26, 2012: 10:05 AM ET

Our first-ever interactive fantasy game has wrapped; we're ready to share some inside stats about the standings and crown the winning roster.

By Daniel Roberts, reporter

FORTUNE -- When Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer suggested we build some kind of online, interactive game around this year's Executive Dream Team feature, a sports theme seemed obvious. Because the list would be revealed in late July, and the game would start in late spring, tying it to baseball was a no-brainer.

Originally, we wanted to make the game as much like real fantasy sports as possible, aiming for a rotisserie-style league with different criteria that change and update as companies continue to operate and thrive or fall. But it quickly became apparent that apart from stock performance, pretty much all other factors would be too subjective, and simply wouldn't work for an automatic algorithm. (Would we reward you when your CEO's company made a successful purchase? Well, who's to decide so early if it was successful? Could we dock teams if one of their players committed a public gaffe? How many points?) Moreover, if we had gone with stock performance as the sole criterion for scoring, we would have only been able to include executives from public companies.

So we decided to use crowdsourced scoring: once you drafted your squad, your rank in the game would fluctuate constantly based on which players everyone else chose. Indeed, it's akin to a popularity contest, but we added the element of predicting Fortune's team, and predicting which execs our 41 hand-picked experts would choose, which became crucial to your success. The Fortune team and expert pool each counted for twice as much as the user pool.

And the winners are...

Now, two months and more than 1,700 teams later, Fortune's official Dream Team is out, team creation is over, and we do have a winner. Before we give credit where it's due, here's an inside look at some of the tightest races, which we at Fortune watched, in the back end of the game site, with great anticipation.

MORE: Our Executive Dream Team

For CEO, Warren Buffett sprinted out to an early lead among users. It's no surprise -- a wide range of our readers worship the Oracle of Omaha and admire his investing prowess. But Buffett didn't do as well with experts, perhaps because our panel of experts were looking for managerial standouts in addition to savvy financial minds. The experts were picking Jeff Bezos and, close behind him, Howard Schultz. As the game continued, readers picked up on the seriousness of Bezos, likely from reading our expert posts, and his stock rose. It was a two-way race, but then Apple's (AAPL) Tim Cook surged, perhaps due to our cover story on his strong leadership in the wake of Steve Jobs's death. In the final five days of the game, Cook cooled off and Bezos and Buffett kept swapping the top spot. In the end, Bezos took the win and also the expert pool, which placed Howard Schultz at second. Bezos grabbed our Fortune slot as well. Tim Cook won third with users.

The race for CFO wasn't quite as exciting, though we're unsure why. Patrick Pichette of Google (GOOG) began gobbling up user votes right away, and never looked back. There was one hiccup: midway through the game, Pat Ward of Cummins (CMI) suddenly surged and overtook Pichette for a short time. Many new teams, all created in a two-day period, selected Ward. We suspect it may have been his loyal employees and colleagues, which is certainly fine by us. But the effort wasn't enough: Pichette finished first with users with Ward coming in second, and Pichette got the expert vote too. After Ward, David Viniar of Goldman Sachs (GS) came in third with users, followed by Fortune's pick, Mark Loughridge. The second-place pick for experts was a surprise: young Dan Ammann of GM (GM).

At chief strategist, an intriguing dichotomy emerged by the end: users overwhelmingly chose Oracle's (ORCL) Larry Ellison. Perhaps they had already known of his background and many wins, or perhaps they had just finished the Steve Jobs biography, which describes Ellison as something of a close confidante to Jobs. Second, but way back, was Under Armour's (UA) Kevin Plank, a young sports apparel exec who makes a bit more sense as a popular choice among readers. Experts, meanwhile, liked Ellison too, but ultimately went with Baidu's (BIDU) Jennifer Li. In the end, Li edged out Ellison to win the expert pool. Kevin Plank was third among experts, and Paul Otellini was third among readers.

The CIO spot was relatively close for the entire game, though IBM's (IBM) Jeanette Horan and FedEx's (FDX) Rob Carter were up at the top from day one. Carter ultimately took the cake on the user vote and Horan won with experts. Third among experts was Zynga's (ZNGA) Cadir Lee, though, interestingly, he was not even in the top five for readers: Todd Pierce of Salesforce (CRM) took the bronze medal.

The race for CMO featured one of three blowout wins in the game, this one by Nike's (NKE) Trevor Edwards. Users, we imagine, saw Edwards and reasoned, "Hey, I know Nike's marketing, and I like it." Coca-Cola's (KO) Joe Tripodi and Starbucks's (SBUX) Annie Young Scrivner tied in the user pool. The experts liked Edwards too, but not as much as Ron Johnson, he of the Apple stores and J.C. Penney (JCP); Johnson got 13 expert votes to Edwards's 10.

COO was another not-at-all-close race among readers: Sheryl Sandberg, who may be the most famous COO ever, crushed Fortune's choice, Don Thompson of McDonald's (MCD). The experts chose Sandberg too.

The designer/engineer slot resulted in our biggest blowout. Perhaps we should have handicapped it by not including Apple design whiz Jony Ive, who earned the biggest share of the user vote of any player in any slot. Ive won over experts, too, trouncing Jack Dorsey's second-place showing. Urs Holzle of Google was the readers' distant second choice, and Fortune's pick, the versatile Elon Musk, got third place with readers.

Proving that the outfield positions were the wild cards -- and most exciting races -- the utility player and non-exec chairman slots were neck and neck throughout. At utility player, Christine Day of Lululemon (LULU) and Reid Hoffman, tech investor, battled for expert votes. Readers liked Hoffman too, but didn't much care for Day, and favored a third party more than either of them: FedEx founder Fred Smith. Though Smith won the user vote, the top five finishers in this category were all very close: Smith came in first, Hoffman second, and Bill George and Hank Paulson tied for third. Carlos Brito of AB-InBev, Fortune's choice last year, was fourth. Experts gave Hoffman the win over Day.

MORE: Fantasy Executive League: Fan faves

Finally, non-executive chairman was our tightest race, with Jim Skinner, Jim Sinegal, and Sam Palmisano in a battle for first the entire time. Surprisingly, none of them was the expert favorite: that win went to "Coach" Bill Campbell, followed by Palmisano. We kept checking the three-way struggle for user favorite and on the final day it was still anyone's game. At the buzzer, Skinner had edged ahead, with Palmisano and Sinegal finishing dead even.

The winning team: As we had hoped, entering the Fortune team shook up the standings. The first-place finisher (who will win a Kindle Fire, $300 Amazon gift card, and subscription to Fortune) was in a tie for 5th place before the Fortune team posted. Once we revealed our squad, "Adaptive Team" got pushed up to first, no tiebreaker necessary. This user finished with 77 points out of a possible 84 for the user pool, 164 expert points out of a possible 174, and 102 Fortune points out of 174. He or she only missed our team by four players.

And the first-place reader squad has...  Jeff Bezos, Mark Loughridge, Larry Ellison, Jeannette Horan, Trevor Edwards, Don Thompson, Jony Ive, Reid Hoffman and Bill Campbell. Good choices for a wonderful dream team.

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