Famous First Words: The Earliest Appearance of 100 Brilliant Business Minds

From Henry Ford and Thomas Watson to Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, a look back at the debuts of some of the greatest business minds in Forbes.

1910s 

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John D. Rockefeller at work in his study, circa 1930.

John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), founder of Standard Oil (1870)

“Nowadays young men—and others—want to have too much done for them. They want to be presented with bonuses; they want all sorts of concessions. To get on, young men should study their business thoroughly, work carefully, accurately and industriously, save their money, and then either become partners by buying a share of the business or go out and form a business of their own.” — John D. Rockefeller Tells How to Succeed” (September 29, 1917)

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Frank W. Woolworth, founder of the Woolworth chain.

Frank W. Woolworth (1852-1919), founder of F.W. Woolworth Co. (1878)

“I came away with the impression that a man of Mr. Woolworth’s rugged commonsense, unbreakable courage and titanic energy could not have failed to make his mark in the world. He is a big man both mentally and physically, a man of boundless vision. For example: ‘What is your ambition?’ I asked him. ‘To open a store in every town in the civilized world,’ was his Napoleonic reply.”

“Getting Big Men to Talk” (October 13, 1917)

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Henry Ford with the first and the ten millionth Model-T Ford.

Henry Ford (1863-1947), founder of Ford Motor Co. (1903)

“Mr. Ford’s interest in his employee by no means ends in the Employment Office. After the man is hired, he is placed in one of the various departments, and careful note made of his progress. If, at the end of a certain period, he is found unsuited for the work given him, he is transferred to some other part of the plant until at last his proper niche is found. When a worker feels his employer is taking a personal interest in him and that he is of value to the firm, he is bound to be happy and to hold his employer in high esteem. In a word, Mr. Ford’s aim is to keep his workmen contented.”

—”Who Is Our Best Employer?” (February 2, 1918)

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Electric Mind: Thomas Edison.

Thomas Edison (1847-1931), inventor/cofounder of General Electric (1892)

“Edison both thinks and acts. That’s why he has been successful beyond every other inventor known to history. The phonograph is the only one of his important inventions which worked at the first trial. Some of his inventions called for ten thousand experiments and one of them for fifty thousand!”

— “Keys to Unlock the Doors of Success” (March 16, 1918)

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Industrialist Harvey Firestone, circa 1910.

Harvey S. Firestone (1868-1938), founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company (1900)

“With a clear vision, H. S. Firestone sees the business of America not as an element in our national life, but as a division of our army, a fighting division, directly back of ‘the cutting edge.’ He pictures his plant and organization, in its close-up relation to Pershing and the boys ‘over there,’ as in supporting trenches. After the war is won, Mr. Firestone wants to see the industries of America emerge from this crisis purged of all extravagance, figurehead executives, useless overhead and the various claptrap activities that distract minds and energies from real issues.”

—“More About Essential Business” (September 21, 1918)

 

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Chocolate king and philanthropist Milton Hershey.

Milton Hershey (1857-1935), founder of Hershey Chocolate Co. (1894)

“As an independent philanthropy, Mr. Hershey is doing a wonderful work in giving a free education to orphan boys. He uses the charming old house which was his birthplace for the purpose and affords a home to twenty boys at the time.”

—”One of America’s Best Employers” (January 11, 1919)

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American pioneer Walter Chrysler, circa 1920.

Walter Chrysler (1875-1940), founder of Chrysler Corporation (1925)

“Walter P. Chrysler, now first-president of General Motors, made his start in a Union Pacific roundhouse in Ellis, Kansas—with a broom. That was nearly thirty years ago. Although his job was ‘just sweeping the floor,’ he did it the best he knew how for four long months, when he became a mechanic’s apprentice.” —“Men Making Their Mark” (May 31, 1919)

1920s

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Watch your step around GM’s Alfred Sloan/

Alfred P. Sloan (1875-1966), president of General Motors Corporation (1908)

“Never has the industry guessed correctly public demand as to the number of cars required, the kind of cars wanted, or just when they would be wanted. What happened in the 1922-23 selling season upset the entire selling experience. If the kinds of models of cars that were wanted could have been delivered in volume when they were wanted, it is safe to say that half as many more cars could have been marketed.”

—“General Motors Head Sees Record Fall Sales” (August 4, 1923)

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A Maytag advertisement from 1941.

Frederick L. Maytag (1857-1937), founder of Maytag (1893)

“Maytag set out to popularize washing by machine, and when one considers the sale of $5,000,000 worth of machines a year, it may reasonably be said that he is succeeding. Maytag set out to put the old back-breaking washboard out of business, to take the work out of washing, and to make people feel that the family washing need not be a disagreeable task…. His motto is: ‘Where there is a real need there can be found a means of supplying it.'”

—”How a Big National Industry Grew Up in a Small Town” (November 24, 1923)

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IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Sr. beneath his corporate mantra.

Thomas J. Watson Sr. (1874-1956), CEO of IBM (1911)

“Mr. Watson tells of an incident during his association with John H. Patterson, the mainspring of [National Cash Register]. Mr. Watson had posted a large sign ‘Think’ where his men would be sure to see it. Mr. Patterson came in and was impressed. Within an hour 100 signs appeared throughout the factory. All carried one word: ‘Think.'”

—”Little Bits About Big Men” (June 1, 1928)

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Pioneering beautician and business executive Helena Rubinstein.

Helena Rubinstein (1872-1965), founder of Helena Rubinstein Inc. (1903)

” ‘Shake off that indecision, that seasonal lethargy that weakens resolution and devitalizes ambition. The world is a busy place. It has no room for shirkers. Harness the energies that are welling up within you to a purpose, and when the Autumn moon shines over the ripening fields—you, too, will know the joy of fruition—the rich harvest of accomplishment.'”

—”Thoughts on Life and Business” (September 15, 1929)

1930s

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Frozen food king Clarence Birdseye at his desk.

Clarence Birdseye (1886-1956), founder of General Seafood Corp. (1923)

“The story of the development of quick-freezing, the most revolutionary idea in the history of food, is a dramatic one. Clarence Birdseye, an American scientist stationed in Labrador on a mission for the United States Biological Survey, observed that occasionally in the extreme cold of Winter, a fish would be almost instantly stiffened when brought into the cold air. He further observed that if thrown back within a short time the fish would presently regain a semblance of life. He reasoned that quick-freezing could cause no appreciable damage in structure, and carried further investigations already under way by scientists in many countries, proving the advantages of quick-freezing.”

—”Frozen Foods Make Debut” (November 1, 1930)

James O. McKinsey (1889-1937), founder of McKinsey & Co. (1926)

McKinsey knew the Merchandise Mart problem, knew it required real estate as well as merchandising promotion. Moreover, he thought he knew the man to do this job.”

“He Torpedoes Them Without Warning!” (August 1, 1937)

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Walt Disney 1935 with his most famous creation, Mickey Mouse.

Walt Disney (1901-1966), founder of Walt Disney Co. (1923)

“When Walt Disney brought Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to life, he did more than produce a picture that is destined to become a record-breaking box-office success. He also introduced a group of star salesmen who seem destined to bring record-breaking sales to the merchants who stock Snow White goods… . The groundwork for this merchandising tie-in with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was laid long before the picture was released, and was based largely on experience in merchandising Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and other Disney creations.”

—”Snow White, 7 Dwarfs: Salesmen” (March 15, 1938)

1940s

A portrait of Leon Leonwood Bean at the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Leon Leonwood Bean (1872-1967), founder of L.L. Bean (1912)

“Here’s the story of a man who stayed in his home town of Freeport, Maine, when its population was 965 people, and built a million-dollar a year business out of a general shoe and gent’s furnishings store where trade sometimes climbed dizzily to $30 a day. No big industrialist, no tycoon a la Wall Street, Leon Leonwood Bean nevertheless ranks high in any compilation of business men who have succeeded under the system of free American enterprise.”

—”Keep It Quaint” (June 1, 1941)

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Shipping magnate Henry J. Kaiser addressing the Senate.

Henry J. Kaiser (1882-1967), founder of Kaiser Shipyards (1939)

“Henry J. Kaiser’s shipbuilding feats have caught the country’s imagination. His first 10,000-ton cargo vessel was completed in October 1941, in 197 days. This year he built one in 10 days. He is no miracle man, but he has a secret weapon. It is a force of expediters.”

—”Henry Kaiser’s Secret Weapon” (October 15, 1942)

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Polling pioneer George Gallup during a 1945 press conference.

George Gallup (1901-1984), founder of Gallup Organization (1935)

“‘The most frequent question asked about the poll,’ Dr. Gallup remarked at one point, ‘is this: Why haven’t I been asked?’ Many people apparently believe there is something phony. They see the results of the poll printed from week to week, yet they never see one of our interviewers. The question comes from men and women who are honestly perplexed. It often comes from others who, for one reason or another, want to discredit the poll.”

—”Backstage with Dr. Gallup” (February 1, 1943)

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Hotelier Conrad Hilton gives a big tip.

Conrad Hilton (1887-1979), founder of Hilton Hotels (1919)

” ‘The hotel business? It’s the most human business in the world,’ he says. ‘It deals with the fundamentals of life, eating and sleeping. Why, a hotel man’s got to be everything, including a father confessor.’ “

—”Conrad N. Hilton: A Close-up” (August 15, 1944)

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Howard Hughes in the cockpit of his 219-foot flying boat HK-1, known as the ‘Spruce Goose.’

Howard Hughes (1905-1976), founder of Hughes Aircraft Co. (1932)

“For the first time, laymen, other than workers in the plant, have had a chance to see the world’s biggest airplane—the flying boat developed by Howard Hughes at his Culver City, Cal., plant. The Hughes H-4 has a wing-spread of 320 feet. Powered with eight 3,000-horsepower engines, it will carry 14,000 gallons of gas. The overall weight of the H-4 is 325,000 pounds.”

—”Aviation Trends” (September 1, 1945)

Bill Lear (1902-1978), founder of Learjet (1962)

“I saw a few of its possibilities demonstrated recently by Bill Lear, president of Lear, Inc., which has been manufacturing aircraft equipment. With an eye on an early reconversion to the manufacture of consumer goods, Lear plans to go in for wire recording units in a big way, either as attachments to home radios, or as independent units to be carried in one’s pockets, installed in offices, cars and planes.”

—”Wires Make a Sound Business” (September 15, 1945)

1950s

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Oil baron John Paul Getty was once the world’s richest man.

J. Paul Getty (1892-1976), founder of Getty Oil (1942)

“Getty was never a man to let money stand in his way when he wanted something. This idiosyncrasy even got him into the hotel business. According to legend, Getty arrived at New York’s swank Hotel Pierre late one night and asked for his favorite suite. The desk clerk explained that the suite was already occupied. ‘I want that suite!’ thundered the oil tycoon. ‘I’m sorry sir,’ explained the clerk again, ‘it’s already taken.’ Getty stormed out. The next day he bought the Pierre and fired the offending clerk.”

—”Getty’s Gravy” (May 1, 1953)

Daniel F. Gerber (1898-1974), founder of Gerber Products (1928)

“Daniel F. Gerber takes an interest in vital statistics. ‘We have,’ says Gerber, ‘been completely amazed at the trend births have taken.’ Gerber, 58, who has five children of his own, also admits to being amazed—’as fully amazed as anyone could be’—by the growth of his company, which has far exceeded the burgeoning U.S. birth rate.”

“Baby Bonanza” (June 15, 1956)

1960s

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Television mogul John Kluge.

John Kluge (1914-2010), chairman of Metropolitan Broadcasting Corp. (1958)

“Kluge, who looks relaxed, but sports a permanent furrow in his balding brow, likes to manage affairs himself. ‘I believe in getting my feet into the mud,’ he says. ‘While I’m expanding, I’m still going to watch the store downtown.’ The store downtown is lucrative WNEW, which brings him to New York from Washington two or three days a week.”

—”Kluge’s Theorem” (January 15, 1961)

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Peter Drucker consulting with his typewriter in 1975.

Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005), father of management consulting

“The basic job of top managers, he reiterates, is the taking of risks, and this means making bold decisions—and original ones. ‘Wherever you see a successful business,’ Drucker recently declared, ‘someone once made a courageous decision. AT&T is prospering today largely on five great basic decisions that Theodore Vail made three decades ago.’”

“Top Adviser to Top Brass” (February 15, 1962)

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Advertising executive David Ogilvy.

David Ogilvy (1911-1999), cofounder of Ogilvy & Mather (1948)

“Ogilvy is master both of the soft sell (Hathaway shirts, Rolls-Royce) and the well-mannered hard sell (Sears, Roebuck, General Foods, Shell Oil). A dapper Englishman who learned much about Americans while working for researcher George Gallup, Ogilvy knows the value of being slightly unorthodox. He has, for example, come out for having billboards abolished. But both he and his competitors agree that he is an advertising genius. He has built the U.S.’ 21st-biggest advertising agency (billings: $56.7 million) from scratch in just 15 years.”

—”She Isn’t a Moron; She’s Your Wife” (November 15, 1963)

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Dr. Armand Hammer admiring a statue he donated to the White House in 1967.

Armand Hammer (1898-1990), CEO of Occidental Petroleum (1957)

“The fact is that Hammer does have a Midas touch as well as a runaway tongue. When he first moved into Occidental Petroleum Corp. in 1955, the company had 600,000 shares outstanding, selling at 20 cents. Today, OXY’s 5.4 million shares are trading at around $26. The market value of the company has risen from $120.000 to $127 million in just eight years, and earnings have risen from less than nothing to $1.29 a share. The company is paying dividends for the first time since 1934. Hammer’s 400,000-odd shares, which cost him perhaps $1.2 million, currently have a paper worth of some $10.5 million. How did it happen? ‘I had beginner’s luck,’ says Hammer”

— “Dr. Midas” (December 1, 1963)

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Lee Iacocca during his Ford years.

Lee Iacocca (1924- ), president of Ford Motor Co. (1903), CEO of Chrysler (1925)

“In the auto business, even small competitive gains come hard. Clearly, Ford was reaping benefits from Lee Iacocca’s hard-sell campaign. Iacocca, for example, has put the company back into stock car racing (it won ten of 11 races in the past two years). He has arranged Ford breakfasts and luncheons around the country this year, inviting businessmen for a free meal and a test drive. This spring, he’ll introduce Ford’s Mustang—described as a ‘miniature Thunderbird.’ “

—”Ford: Accelerating Again” (March 15, 1964)

Olive Ann Beech (1903-1993), cofounder of Beech Aircraft Company (1932)

“Mrs. Beech considers herself an executive who happens to be a woman, ‘It all depends on ability,’ she says, ‘I’d feel upset if I didn’t think my top executives had their eyes on my desk—but whether they get it is another matter. I don’t understand the problems that many women in business seem to feel they have. We hire individuals, not men or women, based on their ability.’

— “Highflier in High Heels” (August 1, 1964)

Hollywood mogul Lew Wasserman in 1976. (AP Photo)

Lew Wasserman, (1913-2002) president of Music Corporation of America (1924)

“Lew Wasserman lives in a house in Beverly Hills that cost him close to $450,000. It has only five rooms. Asked how a house with only five rooms could possibly cost $450,000, Wasserman replied, ‘That was the only house my wife wanted, and that was what the owner wanted.’”

— “Knotholes on the Filing Cabinets” (November 15, 1965)

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Colonel Harland Sanders celebrating his 88th birthday.

Harland Sanders (1890-1980), founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (1952)

“In eight years Sanders established over 500 franchises, had total revenues of over $2.3 million. He was his own sales force, and he never had more than 18 employees. All his franchisees were on the honor system. ‘I don’t think I ever got beat out of a nickel,’ says Sanders. ‘After all, because of me they were driving Cadillacs.’”

— “Life Began at 65” (May 15, 1966)

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Ruth and Elliott Handler, with their most famous creations, Barbie and Ken.

Ruth Handler (1916-2002), cofounder of Mattel/creator of Barbie (1945)

“The secret to success in the toy business: 1) Create, within a large volume area, a new, carefully engineered toy concept that might be expected to remain popular for several years; 2) build around it a line of low-to-medium-priced toys; and 3) advertise heavily on children’s television programs.”

—”It Takes More Than Barbie” (June 15, 1966)

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Ross Perot holds a press conference in 1969.

H. Ross Perot (1930- ), founder of Electronic Data Systems (1962)

“Since the company. Electronic Data Systems Corp., uses IBM computers itself. President Ross Perot says, ‘Even when IBM loses to us, they still win, only not as big.’”

— “Hard-to-Swat Gadfly” (November 1, 1966)

William Donaldson (1931- ), Dan Lufkin (1933- ) and Richard Jenrette (1929- ), founders of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (1959)

“Free from the supposed advantage of long experience, DLJ’s three young founders, practically fresh from Harvard Business School, simply saw what a whole generation of Wall Streeters had nearsightedly overlooked: that a whole new class of customers had arisen, and that The Street did not understand the full implications.”

— “Wall Street” (November 1, 1966)

(Photo courtesy of Hewlett-Packard/Newsmakers)

William Hewlett (standing) David Packard testing the 200A audio oscillator in 1939 in the garage at 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, California, where they began their business.

William Hewlett (1913-2001) and David Packard (1912-1996), cofounders of Hewlett-Packard (1939)

“Now that Packard and Hewlett have broadened the company’s base, its future will be more stable. Its chief sin was poor timing: It simply waited too long to begin branching out. For the immediate future the picture is not so bright. Government spending on the space program remains at low levels, and the R&D, marketing and initial production costs on the new products will remain high. But once having paid the price of diversifying, H-P, otherwise one of the best-run outfits in the electronics business, should resume its upward progress.”

—”Too Long with a Good Thing” (April 15, 1968)

Charles Koch (1935- ) , chairman of Koch Industries (1967)

Why was Charles Koch (pronounced “coke”), the company’s 32-year-old president, giving the public a glimpse of his traditionally secretive company? ‘We are changing this company and we need a corporate identity,” answers Koch. “When we call Dow Chemical about a joint venture or when we try to pirate good people away from another company, we don’t want them to say: ‘Who is Koch Industries?’”

— Peek-a-Boo” (August 1, 1968)

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Many happy returns: Henry Bloch in 1972.

Henry Bloch (1922- ) and Richard Bloch (1926-2004), cofounders of H & R Block (1955)

“A dozen new restaurant chains have sprung up because many an American family can now dine out once a week. No one has made better use of this phenomenon than Henry and Richard Bloch, who last month sold 12% of their H & R Block (the “k” makes it easy to pronounce) for S22.5 million, retaining stock worth $88 million at current prices. The Bloch brothers made all this money by making out income tax returns for the masses. The rich man knows that his accountant will save him more tax money than the accountant’s fee. So, apparently, do smaller taxpayers.”

— “A Share of the IRS” (October 1, 1968)

 

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Economist Milton Friedman in 1976.

Milton Friedman (1912-2006), Nobel Prize-winning economist

“Friedman is the most famous of a school of economists known as the Chicago School. In contrast to [Walter] Heller and the ‘Next Economists,’ the Chicago School believes that whether the Government runs a surplus or a deficit really has little to do with the inflation. The main thing that matters, they say, is how fast the Federal Reserve Board is increasing the money supply. ‘Keynes was just wrong in this respect,’ says Friedman.” — “A Test of Economic Theory?” (November 1, 1968)

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An early portrait of Warren Buffett and his family.

Warren Buffett (1930- ), chairman of Berkshire Hathaway (1970)

“Buffett is not a simple person, but he has simple tastes. He buys a stock for simple, basic reasons: not tortuous or sophisticated ones. His stocks, you might say, are sort of like Omaha.”

—”The Money Man” (November 1, 1969)

1970s

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Ray Kroc outside one of his McDonald’s franchises.

Ray Kroc (1902-1984), founder of McDonald’s Corporation (1955)

“Kroc is not a placid man. His hates (among them, people who talk about market saturation, and above all people who get so rich they want to slow down) are as violent as his enthusiasms. Says Kroc: ‘It’s dog-eat-dog, and if anyone tries to get me I’ll get them first. It’s the American way of survival of the fittest. There’s always someone trying to cut you down…. As long as you’re green you’re growing and as soon as you ripen you start to rot.’ All delivered in rambling monologue in the style of Casey Stengel.”

—”For Ray Kroc, Life Began at 50. Or Was It 60?” (January 15, 1973)

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Rupert Murdoch with his News Of The World newspaper in 1968.

Rupert Murdoch (1931- ), founder of News Corp. (1979)

“Murdoch—now 42—has decided to invade the U.S. Last month he plunked down $18 million cash for the second- and third-largest dailies in San Antonio, Tex, He claims to have been offered the Washington Star, the capital’s afternoon daily, which he turned down because the price was too steep. He says he still wants to buy a major U.S, paper.”

— “The Three S’s” (December 15, 1973)

Richard DeVos (1926- ) and Jay Van Andel (1924-2004), cofounders of Amway (1959)

“DeVos, who claims he can’t understand why the Amway multitudes treat him with such God-like reverence, has lived the make-your-own success story he preaches. In 1949 he and Jay Van Andel began as door-to-door pitchmen for a line of food supplements. They were high school buddies and fellow members of the conservative Christian Reformed Church. After ten years of working out of their homes in Ada, Michigan, a Grand Rapids suburb, they went into business for themselves with Amway (a contraction of American Way).”

— “Soft Soap and Hard Sell” (April 15, 1975)

Dan and Frank Carney (1931-; 1938- ), cofounders of Pizza Hut (1958)

“Frank and Dan Carney were helping out one day in their dad’s grocery store in Wichita, Kan. when the landlady dropped by complaining about her other tenant, a seedy tavern next door. She’d just read in the Saturday Evening Post about a pizza parlor in New York City. ‘Now, you two boys,’ she suggested to the college students, ‘could open up a nice respectable pizza place right here next to your dad’s grocery.’ ” And so, the $167 million (sales) Pizza Hut chain was born.”

—”A Pizza a Day” (May 15, 1975)

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Music mogul David Geffen with Cher in 1973.

David Geffen (1943- ), founder/chairman of Asylum/Elektra Records (1971)

“David Geffen, a hyperactive 32-year-old who runs Asylum/Elektra Records by the seat of his blue jeans, paints out that ‘Ninety percent of most companies’ profits come from 20% of the releases.’ Moving restlessly around his plush suite at New York’s Hotel Pierre, he preaches the virtues of economy. ‘There are just too many releases. We [Asylum] put out only 30 albums last year, hut 14 of them were gold records [over a million dollars in sales], and only three lost money.’”

— “Silver Threads Among the Gold Records” (August 1, 1975)

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Oil baron Marvin Davis in 1977.

Marvin Davis (1925-2004), president of Davis Oil Co. (1947)

“Davis’ father, Jack, made enough money in New York’s garment business to start investing in oil deals in the 1930s, and Marv Davis was hooked early. He recalls a piece of advice given him by H.L. Hunt: ‘Son,’ he said, ‘the guy that drills the most has the chance of coming up with the most.’ “

—”The New Wildcatters” (December 15, 1976)

Leslie Wexner (1937- ) , founder of The Limited (1963)

“He called the store ‘The Limited’—limited merchandise, that is. ‘I figured that if I grossed $100,000 the first year I could survive, ” he says. The Limited grossed $162,000. Leslie Wexner began to think big: ‘I opened a second store and figured that I’d go right on up to building a $1-million-a-year business around Columbus. ” Thirteen years later, Leslie Wexner, 40, is worth $50 million.”

— “The Unlimited Limited” (November 15, 1977)

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Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, doing a hula to pay off a bet with an employee in 1984.

Sam Walton (1918-1992), founder of Walmart (1962)

“The fact is, Wal-Mart is still one man’s company that seems to revolve around and depend on Sam’s roles as coach, orchestra leader, father figure. That is what keeps Walton’s from being just another discount chain. The toughest problem the Sam Waltons of this world face is that they tend not to develop successors. Considering the nature of the men, how can they?”

—”A Day in the Life of Sam Walton” (December 1, 1977)

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FedEx founder Fred Smith in 1980.

Frederick W. Smith (1944-), founder of Federal Express (1971)

“Smith’s idea, now reborn, was to start an all-freight airline that would fly primarily at night when the airports weren’t congested. It would carry small, high priority packages when speed of delivery was more important than cost…. This was not your ordinary $1 million or $2 million venture-capital startup. What Smith was proposing was the creation in one swoop of an entire nationwide system. ‘I was naïve,’ Smith says. ‘I believed a good concept would attract all the money. By the time I found it wasn’t true, I had gone so far that I couldn’t stop.’ “

—”Breathing Under Water” (March 1, 1977)

(Photo by Zachary Freyman/Condé Nast via Getty Images)

Ralph Lauren at the Polo boutique in Bloomingdale’s in 1971.

Ralph Lauren (1939-), founder of Ralph Lauren Corporation (1967)

“Lauren is [not] a seminal thinker about fashion like, say, Pierre Cardin…. Rather, he couples his own tastes with a shrewd sense of what well-heeled men want to look like—for now: ‘new traditionalism, which is like the old Ivy League but more romantic.’ “

—”Ralph Lauren’s Polo Game” (June 26, 1978)

(Photo by Tom Munnecke/Getty Images)

Steve Jobs at the first West Coast Computer Faire, where the Apple II computer was launched in 1977.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011), cofounder of Apple (1976)

“Like many Silicon Valley success stories, it started in a garage. Steven Jobs, then 21, and Stephen Wozniak, 25, old friends from high school, met at a home-computer club in Palo Alto, Calif. in 1976. Both had dropped out of college but were working as engineers, Jobs at Atari and Wozniak at Hewlett-Packard. After both companies refused to fund their personal-computer projects they started building a baby mainframe on their own. The Apple II computer—still basically the firm’s only product—was presented at a computer show in the spring of 1977, and by the end of the year Apple had sold about $2 million worth of them.”

—”Apple’s Pie” (August 20, 1979)

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Carl Icahn in 1985.

Carl Icahn (1936- ), founder Icahn & Co. /Icahn Enterprises (1968)

“In pushing his own interests, Carl Icahn argues that he is also serving those of the average investor. ‘Management likes to call us, raiders,’ he says, ‘but the proxy fight is corporate democracy in action.’”

— “The Return of the Proxy Fighter” (November 12, 1979)

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Richard Branson as a student organizer in London in 1969.

Richard Branson (1950- ), founder of Virgin Group (1970)

“Thanks at least in part to Richard Branson’s 18 record stores, British teenagers can now buy their Bee Gees and Sky albums for only a trifle more than their U.S. counterparts, as opposed to the steep premiums over U.S. prices they paid a few years back. Things usually aren’t done that way in Britain—gentlemen don’t discount—but the 28-year-old Branson couldn’t care less.”

—”Ah, Innocence!” (November 12, 1979)

(Photo by John Barr/Liaison)

Michael Milken delivering a speech in 1988

Michael Milken (1946- ), head of high-yield bonds at Drexel Burnham (1969)

“Mike Milken, 33, runs the high-yield part of Drexel Bumham’s fixed-income department. Milken carries so much weight in the firm’s P&L statement that when he felt the need for a change of scene last year the firm wafted him and his entire department from New York to their new headquarters at 1901 Avenue of the Stars in Los Angeles. That’s the kind of clout that comes with big commissions.”

—“Open Season on Closed Ends?” (November 26, 1979)

1980s

Bettmann

Ted Turner at an Atlanta Braves game.

Ted Turner (1938- ), founder of Turner Broadcasting System (1970)

“But sports teams, Turner knows, won’t a national network make—not entirely. He’s been upgrading the mix with PBS serials and a daily, commercial-free hour of children’s educational programs; emphasizing adult, issues-oriented programming; and selling his station as a major outlet for controversial viewpoints denied time by the major networks. Now there are plans for the Cable News Network.”

— “Heavy Seas for the ‘Superstation’ Captain”  (January 7, 1980)

(Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

John DeLorean in his futuristic sports car in 1981.

John DeLorean, (1925-2005) founder of DeLorean Motor Company (1975)

“The car is still its own best advertisement. Looking like a cross between a Lotus Esprit and a Corvette, the brushed stainless steel prototype is tentatively advertised as getting a fuel-efficient 20 miles per gallon in the city, 30 on the highway.”

—”On a Clear Day . . . ” (March 3, 1980)

(Photo by Nancy R. Schiff/Getty Images)

Banker and financier Sandy Weill in 1981.

Sanford Weill (1933- ), chairman of Citigroup (1998)

“In the view of Sanford I. Weill, chairman of Shearson Loeb Rhoades, brokerage houses are rapidly diversifying into ‘one-stop financial supermarkets’ In addition to serving an individual’s every banking, insurance, investing and credit need, such supermarkets would handle the buying and selling of homes, the relocation of executives, travel planning and financial services yet to be conceived.”

— “Brokerage” (January 5, 1981)

(Photo by Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Microchip pioneer Gordon Moore in 1981.

Gordon Moore (1929- ), cofounder of Intel (1968)

“Competition has grown. The demand for semiconductors has become so large—$13 billion worldwide—that no one company will be able to dominate whole segments, as Intel did in memory chips and microprocessors during the Seventies. In the Eighties at least five or six companies—several of them Japanese—will be splitting up that silicon pie into more equal slices.”

—”A Legend Comes Down to Earth” (March 30, 1981)

(Photo by Graham Bezant/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, with one of major rewards offered top salespeople, a pink Cadillac.

Mary Kay Ash (1918-2001), founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics (1963)

“More than 120,000 “beauty consultant” salespersons, working on commission, give free facials and beauty tips, and sell about $75 to $100 worth (retail) of merchandise per party. They are motivated by 2,500-plus sales directors and by Mary Kay herself, a blond-haired great-grandmother, who conducts the company’s annual inspirational sales meetings in Dallas and hands out such incentives as free trips, diamond pins, mink coats and pink Cadillacs.”

— “The Flight of the Bumblebee” (June 22, 1981)

Just Doing It: Nike chairman Phil Knight in 1994. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Phil Knight (1938- ), cofounder of Nike (1964)

” ‘The secret to the business,’ explains Knight, ‘is to build the kind of shoe professional athletes will wear, then put them on the pros. The rest of the market will follow.’ “

—”Nike’s Fast Track” (November 23, 1981)

(Photo by John Blanding/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Sumner Redstone in his office in 1986.

Sumner Redstone (1923- ), chairman and CEO of National Amusements Inc./Viacom (1967)

“What’s Redstone investing in now? Time Inc., Bally, Loews Corp. and Warner Communications, where he already has large positions. ‘The escalating technological revolution—cable TV, video games, videodiscs—is a very, very formidable threat to film exhibitors, he says.”— “Movie Magic” (February 15, 1982)

(Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)

Most Likely to Succeed: Donald Trump in 1983.

Donald Trump (1946- ) , chairman of the Trump Organization (1971)

“Inquire about Donald Trump in New York real estate circles and you are sorry you asked: You get an earful about how Trump, at 36 certainly New York’s most visible property tycoon, is a creation of his own hype. That doesn’t bother Trump a glamorous 6-foot-2-inch pillar of cafe society, who is currently congratulating himself on the success of his chic new 68-story condominium building on Fifth Avenue next to Tiffany’s. The building—called Trump Tower (what else?)—will not be officially opened until later this year, but Trump claims he has sold 85% of the apartments at prices ranging from $500,000 to $12 million. In the meantime, the lower 20 floors of shopping and office space are almost completely rented—at record-breaking rents, he says.”

— “Golden Boy” (February 28, 1983)

Bettmann

George Steinbrenner in a rare quiet moment at Yankee Stadium in 1977.

George Steinbrenner (1930-2010), chairman of American Ship Building Co. (1967); owner of the New York Yankees

“American Ship didn’t wait. ‘We began looking around in 1978 for what we could do to stay in business,’ Steinbrenner says. But just as it’s not always possible to find a young ‘phenom’ to replace the aging superstar, it took a while for the search to pay off.”

—”Steinbrenner’s New Ball Game” (March 14, 1983)

(Photo by Stan Godlewski / Liaison Agency)

General Electric CEO Jack Welch in 1994.

Jack Welch (1935- ), chairman of General Electric (1892)

“In earlier years Jack Welch earned the nickname ‘Neutron Jack,’ as in neutron bomb. This because it was said that, after he went through a plant, the building was there but the people weren’t. That nickname bothers Welch, but he rightly points out that overstaffing and incompetence are not only bad for a company but put every job in jeopardy. Without periodic pruning, as he puts it, ‘Over the years you drag the whole business down to a level, parceling out to the weak instead of infusing a winning attitude in the whole.’ “

—”General Electric, Going with the Winners” (March 26, 1984)

(Photo by Ed Kashi/Liaison)

Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates in July 1986.

Bill Gates (1955- ), cofounder of Microsoft (1975)

“My money will stay in Microsoft, and I’ll be doing this for a long, long time.”

— “The Forbes Four Hundred”  (October 27, 1986)

(Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)

Oprah Winfrey, then the host of ‘AM Chicago,’ in 1984.

Oprah Winfrey (1954- ), talk show host and founder of Oprah Winfrey Network

“Now King has another winner: an hour-long talk show hosted by Oprah Winfrey, supporting star of The Color Purple. The program is broadcast on 134 stations and should approach 200 by the fall. Oprah Winfrey has done so well in the morning that many stations are shifting her to late afternoon.”

—”The Once and Future King World” (February 9, 1987)

John Malone (1941- ), president of Tele-Communications, Inc. (1972)/chairman of Liberty Media

“Malone runs TCI like a real estate business. TCI generates cash, pays little or nothing in the way of taxes and builds wealth because its cable-TV franchises are increasing in value.”

— “Make Way for John Malone” (April 6, 1987)

(Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Steven Spielberg on the set of ‘E.T. – The Extraterrestrial’ in 1982.

Steven Spielberg (1946- ), filmmaker

“Steven Spielberg, the creative force behind five of the ten highest-grossing films of all time, is already worth, Forbes estimates, $200 million. Within the last few years Spielberg has begun spending: buying singer Bobby Vinton’s old house in Pacific Palisades, a Malibu beach house, a ‘cottage’ in East Hampton on New York’s Long Island and a Trump Tower apartment in Manhattan. He also plunked down a cool $60,500 for the ‘Rosebud’ sled from Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.”

—”How They Spend, How They Invest” (September 21, 1987)

(Photo by Ann E. Yow-Dyson/Getty Images)

Michael Dell at PC Forum, in 1988.

Michael Dell (1965- ), founder of Dell Inc. (1984)

“At 16—just seven years ago—he got his first computer, an Apple II, and immediately put it to work. ‘I liked Chinese food and electronic gadgets, and I never had enough spending money from my parents to satisfy these tastes,” Dell explains. ‘So I had to come up with a way to make my computer deliver the desired extras.’”

— “Entrepreneur in Short Pants” (March 7, 1988)

(Photo by Adriano Alecchi/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

The Maestro: Giorgio Armani in the 1970s.

Giorgio Armani (1934- ), founder of Giorgio Armani, S.P.A. (1975)

“Unlike Pierre Cardin, Armani has not overexposed his brand. ‘When you see the name everywhere, it loses its importance,’ he says. On the other hand, you don’t want to be so exclusive as to lose profit. Although he never studied economics, Armani is a good economist: He sets prices to maximize profits rather than to maximize output.”

— “Giorgio’s Way” (July 11, 1988)

John Mackey (1953- ), cofounder of Whole Foods Market (1980)

” ‘My greatest fear,’ says Mackey the businessman, ‘is that the market will grow so fast that the major players [big chains like Kroger and Safeway] will step in.’ But then, remembering the convictions that got him interested in organic eating in the first place, Mackey adds: ‘It’s also my greatest hope.’ ” —”Good Foods, Great Margins” (October 17, 1988)

(Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Wrestling titan Vince McMahon in 1993.

Vince McMahon (1945- ), chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment (1971)

“Pay-per-view cable may also bold promise for McMahon’s WWF. This year’s Wrestlemania IV was held at the much smaller Trump Plaza but grossed a record $30 million thanks to 1 million pay-TV fans who paid $15 per household. The WWF is strengthening its leadership in pay-per-view by diversifying. McMahon recently acquired the rights to broadcast a Sugar Ray Leonard fight this November. “Before you and I are old and gray,” says DeVito, “the WWF will have played every kind of venue everywhere.”

— “We Want to Be Like Disney” (October 17, 1988)

(Rose Hartman/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Henry Kravis at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, 1989.

Henry Kravis (1944- ), cofounder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (1976)

“One of the ablest gentlemen geniuses among the major players (in a game where gentlemen don’t abound) is Henry Kravis of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. The other evening in discussing what major swoops might be in the making, he commented to me that the really lucrative opportunities get fewer and fewer. Said Henry: “It’s like the game of musical chairs that we played as kids. Every time the music stops, there’s one less chair. There’s a lot of capital out there but fewer and fewer really good places to place it.”

— “Takeover Game Now Like Musical Chairs, Says Kravis” (November 28, 1988)

1990s

Madonna (1958- ), pop star

“She has just finished a rigorous song and dance routine in Nice, France. Madonna Ciccone, the 32-year-old bleached-blonde pop star, walks across the stage and pretends to rough up her background vocalists. Clad in an ivory-colored bustier and trousers from a business suit, Madonna then looks out at the crowd of 35,000 fans, grabs her crotch, raises her fist and yells, ‘I’m the boss around here.’ The crowd roars.”

—”A Brain for Sin and a Bod for Business” (October 1, 1990)

(Photo by William STEVENS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

The Oracle of Oracle: Larry Ellison in 1996.

Larry Ellison (1944- ), cofounder of Oracle Corporation (1977)

“‘You pay a price for growing too rapidly,’ sighs Ellison. In Oracle’s case, the price was its reputation. It can be regained, but slowly.”

— “The Arrogance Was Unnecessary” (September 2, 1991)

Carlos Slim Helu (1940- ), founder of Grupo Carso (1980)

“Surrounded by paintings by Mexican artists and a collection of antique Mexican books and documents, Slim spends his mornings on the telephone and poring over figures, but he does not try to micromanage his far-flung holdings. Puffing on his ever-present Cuban cigar, he says, ‘I can’t be inside every company. My work is to think.’ “

—”El Conquistador” (September 16, 1991)

 

(Photo by Erik Freeland/Corbis via Getty Images)

Michael Bloomberg with the machine that changed business.

Michael Bloomberg (1942- ), founder of Bloomberg L.P. (1981)

“Fast-talking, profane, overflowing with self-confidence, always on the move, Bloomberg is easily a match for his relatively faceless competitors. He has strong ideas about how to run an organization, and he acts on his ideas. He has no secretary and answers his own phone at his desk in the back of the main newsroom of his wire service. He forbids job titles, even on business cards. At Bloomberg L.P. there are no private offices, the conference rooms have clear glass walls, and virtually nothing is partitioned off except for the photocopiers and bathrooms.”

—“A New Guy Can Do It Better” (November 25, 1991)

(Photo by Ken Levine/Getty Images)

Michael Jordan after winning his first NBA title in 1991.

Michael Jordan (1963- ), basketball player

“No fool, Jordan knows he will have to put aside a good part of what he makes, because at 29 he isn’t far from the end of his career. And he has expensive tastes to feed: He owns about a dozen cars (some from endorsements from Chicago area Chevrolet dealers) and an extensive wardrobe (thanks to a marketing venture that licenses the Jordan label). He is reportedly in the midst of constructing a 26,000-square-foot home in a Chicago suburb, where he lives with his wife and two young sons. Not that retirement from basketball will be the end of the line for Jordan.”

—”Put Them at Risk!” (May 25, 1992)

(Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage

Martha Stewart at a benefit in 1991.

Martha Stewart (1941- ), founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (1997)

“Martha Stewart, the doyenne of style, has gotten some ribbing lately for her tough-as-nails haggling with Time Warner. Nothing new, says a source of ours. Some years ago, when negotiating over the promotion of her Kmart housewares line, the lady rebuffed a suggestion that the parties meet in a restaurant. Why not just come to my place, she said. So the crew repaired to her Westport estate for a sumptuous lunch. The following week the participants got a steep bill for their share of the food costs.”

–”Hostess With an Eye on the Bottom Line” (July 29, 1996)

(photo by John Edwards/Newsmakers)

Steve Case testifying before Congress in 1999.

Steve Case (1958- ), cofounder of America Online (1991)

“The typical put-down story goes like this: Stephen Case, AOL’s ambitious founder, has overreached himself. The Internet is going to wipe out AOL because people can get much more information at less expense by ‘getting on the Internet’ than by joining a commercial on-line service.”

—”Get Off Steve’s Case” (January 27, 1997)

David Filo (1966- ) and Jerry Yang (1968- ), founders of Yahoo! Inc. (1995)

“Yahoo! Inc. may or may not have the makings of a great company, but right now it is a very dangerous stock.”

— “The Yahoo! Yo-Yo” (October 6, 1997)

Sean Combs (1969- ), musician and producer

“The Michael Jordan of rap with the corporate touch of gold. Puffy may be stretching his entrepreneurial wings right now, but his success so far has been as a very well paid employee. First MCA Records and now Arista. Why risk capital if you don’t have to?”

—”Top 40 Entertainers” (September 21, 1998)

Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz raises a cup to coffee at the opening of one his ubiquitous shops in 1999.

Howard Schultz (1953- ), chairman of Starbucks (1971)

“Howard Schultz is a genius. He discovered that if you translate ‘regular coffee’ into Italian, you can charge double for it.”

—”The Cappuccino Conundrum” (February 22, 1999)

(Photo by Chris Carroll/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Whole World in His Hands: Jeff Bezos in 1999.

Jeff Bezos (1964- ), founder of Amazon (1994)

“‘A couple of years ago, people were looking at Barnes & Noble’s plans to go on-line and calling us Amazon.toast—and I thought they had a pretty good argument!’ Bezos laughs. ‘But what they didn’t understand is how the Internet shifts power to the customer. At this point, we have more experience than anyone else in on-line shopping.’”

— “The $29 Billion Flea Market” (November 1, 1999)

2000s

AFP / Stringer

Alibaba founder Jack Ma in 2005.

Jack Ma (1964- ), cofounder of Alibaba Group (1999)

“Today Alibaba links together importers and exporters from around the world and grosses under $1 million a year. For Ma that’s just a start. Now he has global ambitions. He aims at nothing less than Webifying the $6.8 trillion worth of world trade.”

—”Fast as a Rabbit, Patient as a Turtle” (July 17, 2000)

(Photo by Ben Rose/WireImage)

Sara Blakely at her foundation gala in 2006.

Sara Blakely (1971- ), founder of Spanx (2000)

“Like so many accidental entrepreneurs, Sara Blakely just wanted to solve a personal problem. She loved to wear tight-fitting pants with sandals but couldn’t find the right undergarment to give her a smooth derriere.”

—”Footless and Fancy-Free” (April 2, 2001)

Photo by Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images

Larry Page and Sergey Brin pose inside the server room at Google’s campus Mountain View headquarters in 2003.

Sergey Brin (1973- ) and Larry Page (1973- ), cofounders of Google (1998)

“It is all much more than Brin and Page ever had in mind when they started. ‘Sure, I’m surprised by the success,’ says Brin, unassuming, rumpled and wiry, his sneakers scuffing the upholstery of a conference-room chair. Users love Google, he says, because they find things there when they’re desperate to know an answer. Keep offering better results and you hold their loyalty forever—and sell them stuff. Page adds that Google has become ‘like a person to them, helping them and giving them intelligence any hour of the day.’ “

—”All Eyes on Google” (May 26, 2003)

Photo by Chris Weeks/WireImage

Elon Musk at the official unveiling of the Tesla Roadster in 2006.

Elon Musk (1971- ), founder of SpaceX (2002) and cofounder of Tesla Inc. (2003)

“Let’s get this straight: Elon Musk is not a lunatic. ‘I’m one of the least flaky guys you’ll ever meet,’ he insists. Flaky guys generally haven’t pocketed

$200 million by age 31 as Musk has, thanks to two Internet successes—Zip2, sold to Compaq in 1999 for $307 million in cash, and PayPal, bought last October by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock. There’s nothing kooky about his latest venture, which is backed by what he describes as ‘tens of millions’ of his own money. Assuming he runs the gantlet of government approvals, his Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX for short, will be ready to launch low-cost rockets by the end of the year.”

—”Way Out There” (May 12, 2003)

Photo by Gary Miller/FilmMagic

Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at the 2008 South by Southwest Interactive Festival.

Mark Zuckerberg (1984- ), cofounder of Facebook (2004)

“Rumors swirling around Silicon Valley suggest Zuckerberg’s widely popular online social networking site Facebook could fetch more than $10 billion. That seems too high to us. The company has only $150 million or thereabouts in annual revenues. Sure it’s growing fast. But for the company to be worth $4.3 billion—making Zuckerberg’s estimated 30% stake worth the $1.3 billion price of admission for this year’s Forbes 400—Facebook would need to sell for nearly 30 times sales.”

—”What About . . . ” (October 8, 2007)

Photo by Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg in 2010.

Sheryl Sandberg (1969- ), COO of Facebook (2004)

” ‘Facebook is only as interesting as the information shared on the platform,’ says Sandberg. ‘So anything that stimulates sharing is valuable.’ Yet its true value will likely come from fusing social data with the banner ads—or some other marketing incarnation—that appear on Web sites large and small.”

—”The World’s Most Powerful Women” (September 7, 2009)

2010s

Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

No Sweat: Kevin Plank relaxing at his Baltimore farm in 2011.

Kevin Plank (1972- ), founder of Under Armour (1996)

” ‘Cotton is the enemy,’ Plank would growl at the men in suits. It sucked in sweat. It clung to your skin. It dragged on athletic performance. It was outmoded, useless, for losers. Under Armour’s synthetic, sweat-wicking shirts, on the other hand, stayed dry and light. They were the future.”

—”Under Armour’s About-Face” (February 14, 2011)

Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

In 140 characters or fewer: Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey visits the White House in 2011.

Jack Dorsey (1976- ) cofounder of Twitter (2006)

“The man who came up with the idea for Twitter is now running two of Silicon Valley’s most popular tech startups. The 34-year-old is executive chairman and head of product development at Twitter and is CEO of Square, which looks to simplify how people make and receive payments via iPhones, iPads and Android devices.”

—”Ones to Watch” (October 10, 2011)

Photo by J. Emilio Flores/Corbis via Getty Images

Say ‘Picaboo’: Evan Spiegel at Snapchat’s headquarters in 2013.

Evan Spiegel (1990- ) cofounder of Snapchat (2011)

“Snapchat offers a face-saving alternative to our constantly tracked, unerasable lives on the Internet—and a chance to reintroduce a modicum of privacy. Users are now sharing over 100 million snaps daily. The revenueless Snapchat has attracted nearly $14 million in venture funding, as well as its own Winklevoss-style lawsuit. Spiegel, 22, insists the idea for the company came from a college friend who said, ‘I wish these photos I am sending this girl would disappear.'”

—”Disruptors” (April 15, 2013)

Markus “Notch” Persson puts on his game face in the March 23, 2015 issue of Forbes.

Markus Persson (1979- ) creator of Minecraft (2011)

“In this virtual world, Persson—or rather his Internet persona, a loudmouthed fedora-wearing crank named Notch—became a deity-like figure to millions of gamers, establishing and clarifying the rules with Zeus-like authority. But Persson is anything but an opinionated extrovert. Face-to-face he’s polite, plainspoken and private. (He rarely talks with the press.) Over time the demands and expectations of fans looking to Notch to keep the monster hit going turned him into a self-conscious wreck.”