A new study of 269 CEOs in the U.S. found that 85.5% of the respondents believe that effective management of corporate reputation affects stock performance. The study, published in PR Week magazine and cosponsored by Burson-Marsteller, also found that 85% of the respondents believe public relations will become more important in the next five years. The study, conducted last month, included companies with revenues ranging from tens of billions of dollars to less than $1 billion in revenues. Harold Burson, chairman of Burson-Marsteller, attributes the rising importance of public relations with corporate leaders to "the increased interest in business by the average American resulting from greater stock ownership by the workforce via 401(k) plans, IRAs, and the like." Burson also cites the growing scrutiny of business by the news media as another factor contributing to the enhanced value of public relations in corporate America. The CEO respondents also were asked to name their peers who most and least skillfully managed the reputations of their companies within the last 12 months. Paradoxically, the CEOs selected Bill Gates, chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corp., as the CEO who most and least skillfully managed his company's reputation. The survey was conducted prior to the recent court ruling against the company.