Sir John Browne
Group CEO, BP Amoco Plc
Perhaps the leading figure in the global petroleum industry, Sir John, 53, has become the chief advocate of its greening. His statement of a "commitment to do no damage to people or to the natural environment" seems a stretch for the oil business, but Browne has headed in that direction by pressing for reduced greenhouse gas emissions and production of cleaner fuels. He told shareholders his company will "keep our net emissions at the current new low level, even as we double the scale of our activity."
Joining BP as an apprentice while still at university, Browne rose through exploration, production, and finance posts, at one point serving as CFO of BP America. After Browne became BP Amoco's CEO, just after the merger, his finance skills were further exercised in the acquisitions of Arco and Castrol. Now, with megamergers behind him, he looks for "organic growth ahead."
Philip M. Condit
CEO, Boeing Co.
In six years of piloting America's largest corporate exporter, Philip Condit has fought Europe's burgeoning Airbus Industrie for airliner orders while shepherding a McDonnell Douglas acquisition that assured Boeing's continuance as a major warplane manufacturer. Strategically, Condit, 61, has set a conservative course, growing the commercial jet, military, and satellite businesses together.
Shunning a "super-jumbo" airliner-development competition with Airbus, he authorized work on a radical "Sonic Cruiser" that could carry 250 passengers at just under Mach 1 — only to delay it until market conditions improve. Internally, he instituted a plan to expense stock options as a current cost, as they're granted — an approach that could become a model for industry.
Raymond V. Gilmartin
CEO, Merck & Co.
Henry A. McKinnell
CEO, Pfizer Inc.
Number-one pharmaceuticals maker Pfizer and number-three Merck are poster children for an industry that has a negative impact on the bottom lines of most U.S. firms, yet holds the key to solving a worldwide scourge. In the United States, high drug prices are inflating health-care costs, pushing up the premiums that companies pay for their employees. Conversely, the industry is providing much-needed medicines to help combat disease globally, and sending low- and no-cost drugs to developing countries to treat such illnesses as AIDS.
The industry claims to need every penny to fund research into these cures. Coming debates in Congress will determine whether it can continue to do so in the free-market system it currently enjoys in the United States, or face pricing controls similar to those that hamper its ability to generate profits overseas.
Jeffrey R. Immelt
CEO, General Electric Co.
Instead of having a smooth transition to CEO, Jeffrey Immelt has had a bumpy ride since he started on September 7, 2001. Almost overnight, GE's predictable earnings growth became a red flag for investors concerned about potential Enron-like earnings shenanigans. In response, Immelt, 46, complained about the company's floundering stock price during this year's shareholders meeting, and he expressed shock at the investment community's criticisms of GE's accounting.
But he also reacted; this year's annual report includes an entire section on special-purpose entities. The world is watching how GE handles these challenges. If the only remaining original member of the Dow Jones Industrial Index can't restore investor confidence in the face of questions about earnings integrity, who can?
Chairman, Fuji Xerox Co.
As a key spokesman for Japanese industry, Kobayashi, 69, presses the government to bolster Japan's economy and move toward reform. It's often a thankless task. Lately, the result has been more encouraging, as he has sought "drastic, aggressive taxation change" aimed at both business and consumers, and more government deregulation.
Under Kobayashi, the Keizai Doyukai, Japan's Association of Corporation Executives, has set itself up as more activist than the country's four main economic associations. He aims to have the organization take a powerful role in politics, economics, foreign policy, and education. And he wants it to help Japan through the pain and discomfort — complete with unemployment and some corporate failures — that the needed reforms will likely cause.
Chairman, Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. and Cheung Kong Ltd.
If Warren Buffett has a counterpart in Asia, it may be the 74-year-old head of Hutchison Whampoa, which operates ports globally and has other interests in telecommunications, real estate, retail, manufacturing, and energy. Li's far-flung businesses did as well as Berkshire Hathaway's in the 1990s, with annual returns above 20 percent, earning him Forbes magazine's designation as Asia's wealthiest man.
Templeton World Fund and Templeton Foreign Fund manager Jeff Everett rates Cheung Kong as "one of the best managements in Asia, if not the world." He adds that investors who expect "a great bull market in Asia" might do well to align themselves with "a man who's going to see opportunity there first and foremost." Says Everett: "It's not going to be Warren Buffett. It's going to be Li Ka-shing."
Chairman, News Corp.
Who says all media are liberal? Murdoch, 71, runs his $14 billion intercontinental news and entertainment company with equal attention to profits and promotion of his conservative views. Last year Murdoch's growth plans were set back by the worldwide advertising plunge, and special disruptions like BSkyB satellite broadcasting's affiliation with Germany's failed Kirch Group.
Across his empire, he's planning "painful cost-cutting and new efficiencies" to help cope with the highly competitive market. Look out Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Television, Gemstar-TV Guide, HarperCollins books, and Murdoch newspapers, which include the Sun and the Times of London. But for the consummate self-made man — who started with a single Adelaide paper in 1954 — it's all about setting the stage for more global expansion.
Lorenzo H. Zambrano
CEO, Cemex S.A. de C.V.
Lorenzo Zambrano has won admiration for creating a global company from cement, arguably the least transportable product in the world. Investors love Zambrano's elite finance team, strategic use of technology, and Cemex's ability to grow operating cash flow more than 10 percent year after year. But the company's acquisition binge left it with almost $6 billion in debt, and investors may be more cautious about what CFO Rodrigo Treviño describes as "innovative capital structuring to optimize credit ratings."
Cemex also has been accused of using its monopolistic hold on the Mexican market to fund overseas expansion. Companies hoping to emulate the Latin American star's two-year stock climb of 50 percent will also be watching how it handles its dual image as both model and monopoly.
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