Some are empire builders. Others are hired guns. But if they truly have world-class oomph, they're on Fortune's subjective - yet really quite accurate - list of the most powerful businesspeople in the world.
1. Steve Jobs
Chairman and CEO, Apple
During the first two decades of his remarkable 30-year career, the Apple Inc. founder twice altered the direction of the computer industry. In 1977 the Apple II kicked off the PC era, and the graphical user interface launched by Macintosh in 1984 has been aped by every other computer since. Along the way Jobs conceived of "desktop publishing," gave the world the laser printer, and pioneered personal computer networks. As a side gig he bankrolled Pixar, which fostered the development of the technology and a brand-new business model for creating computer-animated feature films.
Since returning to Apple in 1997, he has changed the dynamics of consumer electronics with the iPod, and persuaded the music industry, the television networks, and Hollywood to distribute their wares with the iTunes Music Store. With his hugely successful Apple Stores, he gave the big-box boys a lesson in high-margin, high-touch retailing. And this year, at the height of his creative and promotional powers, Jobs orchestrated Apple's entry into the cellular telephone business with the iPhone.
That's five industries that Jobs has upended - computers, Hollywood, music, retailing, and wireless phones. At this moment, no one has more influence over a broader swath of business than Jobs.
2. Rupert Murdoch
Chairman and CEO, News Corp.
News Corp. is a global force across the board - film, television, print, and even online (it owns the social networking site MySpace).
Murdoch wanted more, and he got it with the $5 billion acquisition of Dow Jones. It was the crowning achievement of a career that started in 1953 when he inherited control of two Australian newspapers. Murdoch expanded to Britain in the 1960s, the U.S. in the '70s, and Asia in the 1990s. In Britain he owns the biggest tabloid, the Sun, and in the U.S. the New York Post and his Fox News Network are known for their take-no-prisoners attitude.
Derided by his critics as a tabloid hound all too willing to kowtow to China for the sake of commercial gain, the purchase of the Wall Street Journal was a particularly sweet victory.
At 76, Murdoch appears to be at the height of his powers. He views Dow Jones, along with the recent launch of the Fox Business Network, as steps in the creation of a globe-spanning financial news powerhouse. Can he do it? The breadth of his ambition could be his Achilles heel - the more dominant News Corp. becomes, the more opposition it tends to provoke. Still, Murdoch has proved time and again that counting him out is a high-risk strategy.
3. Lloyd Blankfein
Chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs
Wall Street firms are taking multibillion-dollar write-offs. Titans of finance are losing their jobs. But through it all, Goldman Sachs keeps making money. The i-bank reported stellar third-quarter results: Earnings per share almost doubled from the prior year, and return on equity was 36.6%.
CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who took over last spring, gets credit for helping steer Goldman away from the most damaging investments. And Goldman, which says it has limited exposure to the subprime mess, stands confirmed - for now, anyway - as the smartest bank on the Street.
4. Eric Schmidt
, Larry Page
, and Sergei Brin
CEO; President, Products; President, Technology; Google
The ambitions of Brin and Page, Google's 34-year-old founders, are pretty much boundless. Sure, they've already revolutionized - okay, massively disrupted - the advertising industry. But the billionaires aren't stopping there. They've set their sights on altering how mobile telephones work, fixing climate change, utterly redefining the very nature of work, that sort of thing.
Preposterous? Actually, there's a method to their madness. Despite endless predictions that Google would run itself off the rails, the duo, along with CEO Eric Schmidt, have shown a good deal of management maturity. They've been willing to build (AdWords, their search-based advertising service) as well as buy (YouTube). And they've defied critics who said they couldn't operate their company for the long term.
5. Warren Buffett
Chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
Of course it matters that Buffett has built Berkshire Hathaway into a massive holding company with interests ranging from underwear to private jets (2006 revenues: $98 billion). Of course it's impressive that since 1965, Berkshire has performed more than twice as well as the S&P 500. Of course it's amazing that Buffett has made millions from something as toxic as Enron bonds. And of course it is somehow unsurprising that he managed to help broker a deal between A-Rod and the New York Yankees.
But the source of Buffett's influence is found in his nickname: the "Sage of Omaha." CEOs - and athletes, obviously, including LeBron James - venture to Nebraska to consult him. And people everywhere listen to his pronouncements on things like managed earnings (against), stock option expensing (for), and the U.S. dollar (pessimistic).
6. Rex Tillerson
Chairman and CEO, Exxon Mobil
An oilman down to his boots, Tillerson makes no apologies for running the world's biggest non-state-run oil company. Exxon Mobil gets high marks for the quality of its operations, and its stock has out-distanced the S&P 500 on Tillerson's watch. He has even made something of a modest PR splash by acknowledging the possibility of global warming, something his prickly predecessor never did. Exxon under Tillerson has learned that it needn't pick a fight in order to throw around its weight.
7. Bill Gates
Founder, chairman of Microsoft; founder and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill Gates remains the iconic technologist, entrepreneur, and business leader of his generation. He invented the software industry, masterminded the rise of the PC, and has hung in there as a force on the Internet. Still intent upon transforming how people work and communicate, now Gates is pushing software to handle all aspects of office communications, from your phone to e-mail to instant messaging. His software powers smartphones and will show up soon in television set-top boxes. And he has hooked up with upstarts like Facebook to channel the energy and advertising potential of social networks.
Since 2000 he's had a new kind of power through the charitable activities of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates is expected to retire from Microsoft next year and devote most of his time to the foundation, which has an endowment of $33 billion - and the promise of tens of billions more from his close friend and occasional bridge partner Warren Buffett (No. 5). The foundation has global aspirations to improve health care and reduce poverty. His other goal: reinventing philanthropy itself, much as he did information technology.
8. Jeff Immelt
Chairman and CEO, GE
General Electric's chief executive is powerful for many reasons, but here's one that's often overlooked: the company's AAA credit rating. Only six U.S. industrial corporations hold that credential, and it gives GE a huge competitive advantage in the finance-related businesses that bring in most of its profit. It also helps the company sell its big-ticket products - jet engines, industrial turbines, CT scanners, locomotives, and so forth - by offering financing that competitors can't beat. Add a century of experience in developing the world's best managers and management practices, and GE becomes a very tough organization to catch up with or oppose.
As if running a company like that didn't make him powerful enough, Immelt is also chairman of the Business Council, the group of top-tier CEOs that influences government policy, and on the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
9. Katsuaki Watanabe
No question: When Katsuaki Watanabe became president of the world's most admired company in 2005, he took the wheel of a well-oiled machine. But he is making his own mark on it, urging the company, which earned $14.1 billion last year, to keep getting better. He launched a quality-improvement campaign that helped make the debut of the 2008 Highlander SUV just about trouble-free and has the company on track to overtake General Motors for good as the world's largest automaker. His ultimate goal: a car that can drive across the U.S. on a single tank of gas. At the speed he has Toyota moving, you can pencil that in for 2050.
10. A.G. Lafley
Chairman and CEO, Procter & Gamble
Since taking charge in 2000, when Procter & Gamble was sinking under the weight of too many new products and organizational changes, Lafley has refocused on consumers and rejuvenated core businesses. P&G now boasts 23 billion-dollar brands, including Tide, Crest, Pampers, Gillette, Olay, Pantene, and the latest addition, Gain laundry detergent.
By denouncing insularity and demanding innovation in everything that P&G does, this company lifer has pushed P&G toward higher-margin areas like health, beauty, and personal care. The payback: Profits have tripled on his watch, to more than $10 billion on $76.5 billion in revenues.
Of course, Lafley has bought some of that growth; the acquisition of Gillette for $54 billion in 2005 was the largest in company history. But it is the record of organic growth - an average of 6% a year - that has made P&G a stock market standout and Lafley a role model for other CEOs.
11. John Chambers
Chairman and CEO, Cisco
"What do you think?" Turning the tables on his questioners is a Chambers trademark, and therein lies a key to the power of Cisco's CEO. The soft-spoken West Virginian has turned listening into the art of making a sale - and few sell better. Everywhere he goes he makes converts to the Internet. Cisco's equipment, far more than any other company's, tells all those digital bits where to go. Without it the world would come to a standstill.
At less than $30, the stock is far below its split-adjusted peak of $80 in 2000. But financially Cisco is stronger than ever, and Chambers deserves a lot of the credit. Revenues for fiscal 2007 were $35 billion, up 22%. At $7.3 billion, profits rose 31% - and have climbed almost threefold since 2000.
12. Li Ka-shing
Chairman, Cheung Kong Holdings and Hutchison Whampoa
In Hong Kong they call him "superman" - and his feats in business are indeed the stuff of legend. Born in China, Li, 79, came to Hong Kong as a refugee. Forced to drop out of high school, he founded his first company, a plastics manufacturing concern, in his early 20s. Through Cheung Kong (Holdings), his corporate flagship, and Hutchison Whampoa, a conglomerate, he wields enormous influence in Hong Kong, mainland China, and Europe, which last year accounted for 45% of Hutchison's $34.3 billion in revenues.
Li's empire includes the world's biggest ports company and the world's largest provider of 3G mobile-phone services, plus holdings in shipping, property, retailing, and energy. And he is not slowing down. Last year Hutchison's profits and EPS rose 40%, and Li, who may be Asia's richest man, remains keenly interested in a new business school he is financing in Beijing.
13. Lee Scott
Why is Lee Scott still on this list? Sales growth at Wal-Mart has stalled; it's embroiled in a class-action employee lawsuit; Scott has led botched forays into fashion and home décor; and, of course, the company name has become a byword for middlebrow values with a dash of naked capitalism. But he's here because Wal-Mart is still America's biggest company (2006 revenues: $351 billion), and Scott still runs the place. About one of every ten non-auto retail dollars in the U.S. is spent at a Wal- Mart. It is also the nation's biggest energy consumer, its biggest real estate developer, and its biggest non-government employer. More than that, the company may be turning a corner. Healthy profits in its most recent quarter bode well for the holiday, and Scott is pushing a slew of eco-friendly initiatives that are alleviating some of that bad PR.
14. Lakshmi Mittal
Chairman and CEO, ArcelorMittal
Had Lakshmi Mittal, 57, remained in his native India and joined the family steel company, odds are he'd merely be a prosperous local businessman. Instead he set out on his own and became the Andrew Carnegie of our era, with operations in more than 60 countries, 320,000 employees - and a personal fortune of more than $40 billion. He built his empire on a bet that steel had a great future for someone who could achieve sufficient scale. After purchasing former state-owned companies in Eastern Europe, Mittal bought into the U.S. in 2004 and last year won a bruising battle for Europe's Arcelor. Today his company is three times the size of its nearest competitor, and Mittal has become a symbol of globalization.
15. Jamie Dimon
Chairman and CEO, JP Morgan Chase
While Citigroup, Wachovia, and Bank of America struggle with multibillion-dollar losses, one big bank is emerging relatively unscathed from the market meltdown: J.P. Morgan Chase. That is a tribute to Jamie Dimon, its CEO since early 2006. "I think we're fine," he told a conference in mid-November. The market surely believes he is the man of the moment: Over the past three months, J.P. Morgan's stock has fallen, but it has still outperformed its major rivals.
Dimon has always shown a mastery of risk management. From 1975 to 1998 he was Sandy Weill's partner in creating the world's biggest financial services firm, Citigroup. It was Dimon who played hands-on operator to Weill's dealmaker by integrating a dazzling string of acquisitions. Fired in 1998, he rescued Chicago's Bank One, then merged with J.P. Morgan in 2004. With Citi in a swoon, Dimon is getting a sweet taste of revenge.
16. Mark Hurd
Chairman and CEO, Hewlett-Packard
When the steely Midwesterner signed on to run Hewlett-Packard in 2005, the company was in the dumps. The board had fired his predecessor, the high-profile Carly Fiorina; morale was low; and the numbers were not looking good.
All that has changed. HP is back at the top of its game. In its most recent results, net earnings rose 28% on revenue growth of 15% - and the company is so bullish that it ordered an $8 billion buyback. The Silicon Valley stalwart has overtaken Dell as the leader in the personal computer market and is turning out innovative products, such as the video-conferencing system Halo. Oh, and its stock price has tripled under Hurd, who emerged pretty much unscathed by the boardroom pretexting scandal in 2006.
What does the chief executive have to say about all this? Precious little. Hurd, 50, avoids the limelight, but there is no doubt in anyone's mind who is piloting the ship.
17. James McNerney
Chairman and CEO, Boeing
The global economy doesn't fly without aircraft, and Boeing has made about 75% of the world's commercial airplane fleet. The company is also a huge defense contractor, turning out a broad range of fighters, bombers, missiles, satellites, and a bunch of other stuff they could tell you about - but then they'd have to kill you. Adding to its global clout, Boeing sells to governments around the world. Think about it: McNerney runs the company that produces more airplanes than any other and that also knows the secrets behind some of the world's most fearsome military technology. That's power.
18. Marius Kloppers
CEO, BHP Billiton
Talk about being in a hurry: Kloppers took over as chief executive of the world's biggest mining company by market capitalization (some $200 billion) on Oct. 1. One month later he launched a $150 billion takeover bid for rival Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto; the combined entity would be a resources superpower with a larger market cap than Microsoft and higher revenues (some $70 billion combined in 2007) than Dell or Boeing.
Mining insiders weren't too surprised by the move. Kloppers, a 45-year-old vegetarian, has a reputation as an aggressive executive with superior intellectual bandwidth. BHP produces, in vast quantities, industrial staples like iron ore, copper, coal, nickel, uranium, oil, gas, and aluminum. That makes K loppers a crucial middleman in the global economy.
19. Steve Schwarzman
His firm has nearly $100 billion in assets under management - private equity, hedge funds, real estate. And thanks to a spate of mega-buyouts, including February's $39 billion purchase of EOP and October's $26 billion acquisition of Hilton Hotels, Schwarzman - the "New King of Wall Street," as we called him in February - embodies the private equity boom. He could also embody its slowdown: The firm missed its earnings in the third quarter, and its shares have been falling for months.
20. Carlos Slim
Chair, TelMex and Carso Foundation
Slim's companies help Latin America work. His América Móvil wireless service operates in 16 countries and provides phone service to more than 137 million customers. In his home country, Mexico, Slim's TelMex controls more than 90% of the phone connections. His companies build roads and erect oil platforms, his banks loan money to businesses and consumers alike, and he even sells knickknacks through his Sanborn's retail chain.
The son of a Lebanese immigrant, Slim, 67, has a personal fortune of about $59 billion, making him the world's richest man; Slim-controlled companies make up one-third of the $422 billion Mexican stock exchange - a position of unique dominance. It is all but impossible for the average Mexican to function without interacting with a Slim-controlled company in some way every day. Slim shrugs off accusations he is a monopolist or an oligarch. With family members installed at various Slim companies, the billionaire is spending more time giving away some of his fortune.
21. Steve Feinberg
Since co-founding Cerberus in 1992, Feinberg has homed in on companies so financially distressed - such as GMAC and ACE Aviation (Air Canada's parent) - that traditional leveraged-buyout investors shied away. He took that strategy to the hilt in May, when his firm bought 80% of Chrysler, the automaker that gave Daimler so much grief. The high-profile deal - and the high-wattage folks Feinberg has been recruiting to help run his acquisitions (e.g., Jim Press and Robert Nardelli at Chrysler) landed Cerberus near the top of the M&A heap.
Right now the portfolio includes more than 50 companies and about 250,000 employees. Combined, they ring up $120 billion in annual revenues, which would be enough to crack the Fortune 10 as a single conglomerate.
22. Indra Nooyi
Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo
Smart, irreverent and armed with a global perspective, Nooyi is the most powerful woman in business. She was the main architect of the dramatic reshaping of Pepsi that began in the mid-1990s. The company jettisoned restaurants, picked up Gatorade and Quaker, and created a portfolio that put Pepsi a decade ahead of the pack in anticipating consumers' desire for both healthier products and more sustainable business practices.
The numbers have been good too. Annual net income more than doubled to $5.6 billion in the five years that ended last year, and the stock price increased 68% over the same period. Nooyi, who became CEO in October 2006, calls this "performance with a purpose." Her goal: to make Pepsi a model 21st-century company - both responsible and successful.
23. Ratan Tata
Chairman, Tata Group
As head of one of India's most venerated family businesses, Tata, 69, has unique stature. The Tata Group, which is one of India's largest conglomerates, includes India's largest software house, one of its most prestigious hotel chains (the Taj), and sprawling steelmaking operations, as well as leading players in consulting, wireless, and cable services. Since taking over in 1991, Tata has made numerous big-ticket deals. But his heart is set on a project closer to home: creating a $2,500 car that middle-class Indians can buy.
24. Bob Iger
CEO, Walt Disney
In the post-mogul era of media management, Bob Iger might just be the archetype. When he was elevated to run Disney two years ago after the tempestuous reign of Michael Eisner drew to a close, Iger was derided, even by some of his own directors, as Eisner lite - that is, an acolyte of his old boss who lacked the former's glamour or sense of vision.
Iger shrugged off the carping and set about restoring Disney's luster through thoughtful risk-taking and the canny exercise of power. Among his quietly effective hits: mending frayed relations with Steve Jobs, thus allowing Disney to buy Pixar, and putting ABC television fare like episodes of "Lost" on video iPods, an example of the digital savvy that is a hallmark of Iger's Disney.
And the shows go on: The company's profit-spinning media brands, led by ESPN, include the likes of "Pirates of the Caribbean," Pixar's "Ratatouille," "Hannah Montana," and the cheerfully unavoidable "High School Musical." Although the shares have been flat lately, over the past two years, they are up 28%, outpacing the S&P and most other media-company stocks.
25. Bernard Arnault
Chairman and CEO, LVMH
Arnault is best known for turning LVMH, already a luxury-goods giant when he won control in 1989, into a global empire through acquisitions, savvy marketing, and bold design. The $19 billion company, in which he's also controlling shareholder, boasts more than 60 brands, including the eponymous Louis Vuitton, as well as Marc Jacobs, Dom Pérignon, and beauty chain Sephora.
But Arnault's influence reaches far beyond couture and champagne. He's a close friend of French President Nicolas Sarkozy; a newspaper baron who's currently selling one business daily, La Tribune, and acquiring its rival, Les Echos; and a powerful arts patron: Arnault got the go-ahead last fall to build a center for LVMH's art foundation in the Bois de Boulogne.
This spring Arnault, 58, who is France's richest man, turned activist shareholder when his holding company paired with private equity firm Colony Capital to buy a 9% stake in Carrefour, the world's second-largest retailer. Arnault made his mark felt fast: In August, Carrefour announced plans for a $6 billion stock buyback program.