The 25 Most Influential Business Leaders Of 2013
Every industry has its movers and shakers.
Men and women who, by virtue of their chutzpah and determination, built new companies, saved them from the brink of extinction, or forged new paths for others to follow.
To celebrate their creativity and bold innovation, we rounded up the business leaders who were major game-changers in tech, retail, entertainment, media, and finance this year.
Retail Chief, Apple
The new Retail Chief at Apple recently left her cushy position as CEO of Burberry, but not before taking the luxury brand digital. Under Ahrendts' leadership, Burberry has built some incredibly tech-savvy retail stores where people can use their smartphones to learn more about a product.
On the brand side, Ahrendts, an American, turned Burberry from a label previously associated with stodgy outerwear to thebiggest high-fashion brand in the U.K., worth an estimated $10.4 billion.
All eyes are on her as she steps into her new role at Apple. Rumors that she'll be next in line for the CEO position have already started circulating.
CEO, General Motors
Cadillac has heavily renovated and created new versions of its ATS, XTS, and CTS sedans over the past two years, and the effort shows.
Akerson is credited with taking the Cadillac from being "Seinfeld's dad's car" to a luxury car maker on par with the likes of Audi and BMW.
Amazon is growing at breakneck speed. The e-commerce giant, which was once a two-dimensional book selling website, now sells nearly everything under the sun. And that may soon include cell phones.
Word has gotten out that Amazon has been working with HTC on a series of smartphones, one of which is in "an advanced stage of development," a source tells the Financial Times. It's a different — and bigger — beast from making and selling Kindles, as now Amazon will have the support of service carriers behind them.
Amazon did $17.1 billion in net sales in the third quarter, with a 19% increase in active users.
Neil Blumenthal & Dave Gilboa
Co-founders and Co-CEOs, Warby Parker
These Wharton School classmates founded the buzzy eyewear brand that provides a free pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair purchased. They're on the fast track to taking down Luxottica, a $20 billion company that owns most of the eyewear industry.
CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
The masterful investor and world's fourth richest man led Berkshire Hathaway in a number of acquisitions this year. The conglomerate holdings company buddied up with investment firm 3G Capital to buy ketchup maker Heinz for $28 billion, and snagged Nevada's electric and gas company NV Energy for $5.6 billion.
Berkshire Hathaway may have missed on its earnings in the third quarter, but its long bets on global stock markets paid off, making $519 million on "financial weapons of mass destruction."
In May, Buffett wrote a provocative article in Fortune on how America has made a terrible mistake in under-utilizing the talents of women, leading the way for other companies to also re-evaluate the way they hire and promote women.
Cinnabon, which was once seen as just a food kiosk in malls, is now becoming a household brand name thanks to Cole.
The former Hooters waitress worked her way up to become president of Cinnabon before the age of 35, and is credited with taking its indulgent creations to grocery store shelves and fast food chains like Taco Bell. Licensing now accounts for more than halfthe chain’s revenue, and this year global sales will reach $1 billion.
It was a big year for social networking company Twitter, which successfully completed its IPO earlier this month. The IPO was priced at $26 a share, but the opening trade was almost double that, at $45.10, and share prices closed at $44.90 — a huge relief for both investors and the company, considering how badly Facebook's IPO went.
Costolo, a former stand-up comedian who took the helm of Twitter in October 2010, has noted the challenges of leading a company he didn't found, yet still managed to grow revenues from $28 million in 2010 to $254 million in just the first half of 2013.
Not long ago, Wall Street couldn’t stop hammering Hastings as a failed business leader when he split Netflix into two companies — an online streaming service and a separate DVD-by-mail business. He recovered from the debacle, and now Netflix has become a bona fide threat to the cable model. It's got more subscribers than HBO, its stock surged 260% this year, and it picked up 14 Emmy nominations.
Netflix bet big on original programming this year, and saw runaway success with "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black." It also recently announced four Marvel TV original series.
CEO, Lockheed Martin
Hewson held 19 other titles at Lockheed Martin before becoming the first female CEO of the world's largest defense contractor in January. Now, in the face of deep government budget cuts, she's making tough decisions to protect its future.
The government shutdown forced Hewson to furlough 2,400 employees, and this month she announced it will shed 4,000 positions to lower costs. Still, in the third quarter Lockheed Martin reported a 20% increase in profit from last year.
In October, Lockheed Martin announced it wouldjoin forces with Boeing in a bid to build a fleet of 80 to 100 new bombers for the Air Force.
This time last year Disney acquired Lucasfilm for just over $4 billion, giving the House of Mouse rights to the cult-like Star Wars empire and the revenue that goes with it. Iger has already seen to it that a new Star Wars movie be released in December 2015, along with a new array of Star Wars toys, games, and other merchandise.
Of course, Iger hasn't forgotten about his last big acquisition either; a Marvel-themed attraction will be popping up in Hong Kong in the near future, and four new Marvel superhero shows will be made exclusively for Netflix.
Disney shares jumped 3% in the third quarter.
CEO, Best Buy
While many have predicted the tumultuous decline of Best Buy, Joly has employed some brilliant strategies through his "Renew Blue" initiative to leverage what used to be seen as weaknesses, up their game with the competition, and re-energize the company.
He is closing some of the oversized and underutilized stores and opting for smaller physical spaces while digging further into digital spaces. That includes shipping purchases directly from some 1,000 stores to customers who buy online.
The effort has been paying off, with company shares up 10% in the third quarter.
Jørgen Vig Knudstorp
CEO, Lego Group
Lego Group nearly went bankrupt in 2003 as video games and other toys booted the Danish company from every kid's wish list. Knudstorp stepped into the CEO role a year later and narrowed the company's mission, increased product innovation, and embraced the existing LEGO community.
This year, Lego Group became the world's second-biggest toy maker as it clicked with the booming Asian markets and built on its popular plastic bricks with video games, theme parks, and "The Lego Movie," due in theaters in February 2014.
CEO, GrubHub Seamless
Online food delivery competitors GrubHub and Seamless merged in May, with Maloney at the helm. Seamless owned the New York City food delivery market while GrubHub made waves in the Midwest. Combined, the two companies reach 500 cities and work with more than 20,000 restaurants.
Previously, Maloney led GrubHub through five rounds of funding, totaling $84.1 million.
This month, GrubHub Seamless announced plans to file for an IPO in 2014. It should help it fend off Yelp, which recently entered the food delivery business.
Mayer is reinvigorating Yahoo, which floundered under the direction of the six CEOs prior to her appointment. She has orchestrated 17 acquisitions, including the $1.1 billion purchase of David Karp's blogging service Tumblr; overhauled the photo-sharing site Flickr; and redesigned Yahoo's home page and logo.
Mayer has warned us not to expect further growth until next year, and is putting advertising revenue on the back burner while fiercely concentrating on getting Yahoo's product lineup right, with a focus on mobile and apps.
CEO, Ford Motor
Under Mulally, Ford was the only American car company that didn't need a bailout during the recession. The company has gone from posting record multibillion-dollar losses in 2006, when he took over as CEO, to five consecutive years of annual profits. Their first, second, and third quarter earnings smashed expectations as they rolled out new, desirable makes and models.
Dubbed a "turnaround expert" by Reuters, Mulally has become the leading candidate to take the reins at Microsoft after current CEO Steve Ballmer leaves, despite the fact that Mulally doesn't come from a tech background.
CEO, Tesla and SpaceX
Musk made headlines with two major announcements this year: first with plans to build a driverless car, and then with proposed designs for the Hyperloop, a new mode of transportation that can get people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes.
Naturally, running not one, but two revolutionary companies keeps Musk very busy, but his awe-struck employees hail him an "amazing visionary" who is "crazy smart."
Larry Page is becoming one of the most powerful people on the planet.
In the last 12 months, Google generated nearly $18 billion in profits, and Page has no trouble spending that cash on wildly ambitious and expensive projects: the acquisition of Motorola, Google Glass, Google Fiber, self-driving cars, and a plethora of "moon shots."
The stock is on a huge tear, which definitely helps.
Peretti launched BuzzFeed in 2006. Under his fierce leadership, it has increased its readership to 85 million monthly unique visitors.
Peretti has put BuzzFeed on the map as a legitimate source for hard news and politics and has expanded its long-form content, developing two teams of international news correspondents and investigative journalists.
Peretti recently told Wired that the company has become profitable while making these changes.
Karl Johan Persson
Persson shook up the fashion retail industry when he boldly chose to make aplus-sized model the face of H&M's swimsuit collection. He also picked curvaceous Beyoncé to star in the summer ad campaign. He said that many models the brand has featured in the past were too thin, leading to speculation that other brands should follow his example.
After three years of e-commerce promises, H&M finally debuted its dedicated online store in August. It offers its entire catalog plus additional sizes and styles.
Now entering her second year as CEO, Rometty is putting a lot of time and energy into IBM's supercomputer Watson, which famously won Jeopardy a few years back. But Watson is more than just a number-cruncher; it absorbs information at amazing speeds, and is starting to diagnose and fight cancer, which could spark some new sales opportunities for IBM. Still, Rometty says that we haven't seen anything yet.
IBM is also entering underserved markets in places like Africa, where competitors have yet to explore, giving IBM a leg-up into the future of finance.
Rometty is the first female CEO of the century-old company, and after making headlines last year for being snubbed by Augusta National Golf Club, the traditionally all-male club decided to invite women for the first time in its history.
Chief Operating Officer, Facebook
Sandberg arrived at Facebook when it was bleeding cash, and with her aggressive leadership, the company turned profitable. This year Facebook's ad revenue soared 66% to $1.8 billion, and mobile ads — Sandberg's pet project — now account for almost half of its ad revenue.
Facebook stock finally rebounded above its IPO price, and Sandberg pounced on the opportunity. Shesold $91 million worth of stock. Her remaining stock and vesting options, worth more than $1 billion, make her one of the world's few self-made female billionaires.
More than helping steer Facebook, Sandberg has also been leading the charge to get women to "Lean In" and ask for more in their careers, encouraging them to go after sought-after executive positions. Her book, which came out in May, has been named one of the most influential business books of 2013.
CEO, AMC Networks
Sapan is funneling investments into original programming amid the knockout success of "Breaking Bad," "Walking Dead," and "Mad Men." The basic cable network's emphasis on quality over quantity is driving financials over time, and for the first time this year, AMC Networks sold ad inventory for all four of its networks: IFC, AMC, WeTV, and the Sundance Channel.
In October, AMC Networks bought international content distributor Chellomedia for a cool $1.04 billion, giving it greater control over the global distribution of its programs.
CEO, The Container Store
Despite not turning a profit in the last three years, The Container Store is primed for serious growth. Losses have slowed, and its public offering got off to a monstrous start, with the stock price doubling on opening day. It has reported 14 consecutive quarters of same store sales growth, and is ranked as one of the best places to work.
Tindell is a proponent of so-called "conscious capitalism" — putting the focus on people, not profitability. The Container Store spends more than half of its revenue on employees, which is about 20% higher than the industry average.
Weiner joined LinkedIn in 2008, growing its membership base from 33 million to more than 225 million members, and increasing its revenue tenfold.
It's number of monthly unique visitors skyrocketed in recent months, due in part to its lowering the minimum age to join the network and launching a new product called "University Pages" aimed specifically at college-aged users. Weiner is also putting more energy and resources intorevamping the website's mobile app.
The value of LinkedIn stock has nearly quadrupled from its $45 IPO price two and a half years ago.
John Wren and Maurice Lévy
CEOs, Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe, respectively
Omnicom and Publicis announced in July that they would merge, creating the largest ad company in the world. It was a huge and significant move in the industry, with a stock market value of $35.1 billion and more than 130,000 employees.
Together, the companies could now easily collect and sell millions of people's personal information, giving companies access to entirely new sets of consumers, and making a giant mark in the realm of Big Data.
Omnicom and Publicis generated $23 billion combined in revenue last year, which was more than the now-second-biggest ad company in the world, WPP.
Those were the movers and shakers of 2013.