Subscribe to Inc. magazine

Down to the Final Four: Oprah, Gates, Schultz and Branson

Advertisement

All of the Elite Eight contenders in Inc’s Greatest Living Entrepreneur Tournament are iconic leaders in their fields. But the ones who got the most votes tended to be those with more than one trick up their sleeve. Branson—the music/airline/mobile/space travel magnate—beat out Martha, whose sole empire is the home. Howard Schultz, now known for social entrepreneurship as well as $4 cappuccino, outlasted the billion-dollar social media star Zuckerberg. This sets up a Final Four that is a clash of true business titans.

Bill Gates Microsoft
Jeff Bezos Amazon
This was a competition of management styles-Bezos with his goofy, infectious laugh, and the intellectual Gates with his flame-mail temper-as well of business strategies. Both brilliantly exploited their first-mover advantage, but Gates built his edge into a virtual monopoly. Love him or hate him, that's single-minded devotion to a goal, and voters rewarded him.
Richard BransonVirgin Group
Martha Stewart Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
Martha made herself into a brand juggernaut. But Branson became a brand, too, one that stood for adventure and informality. In the end it was his brand that proved more notable to brackets voters, since he has applied it with equal success to music, airlines, cellular phones, and now space travel. Both Stewart and Branson had brushes with the law-Stewart for insider trading and Branson for tax evasion-but the conviction arguably was a bigger blow to Stewart's Ms. Perfection image.
Mark Zuckerberg Facebook
Howard Schultz Starbucks
Schultz created a whole new kind of place for people to hang out in the physical world, while Zuckerberg did the same thing online. On the merits, Zuckerberg has probably will have a bigger global impact before he is through, but voters may have felt that he is still too young to have compete in a contest that is, at heart, a lifetime achievement award. Schultz has also earned managerial kudos for making Starbucks a great place to work, no small feat in the fast-food world.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin Google
Oprah WinfreyHarpo Productions
By understanding the hearts and minds of ordinary American women, Oprah turned herself into one of the most powerful media brands ever. By grasping the potential of search, the Google founders created a company that has become to the online world what Microsoft was to the PC. In sheer business terms, Google is by far the more successful entity, but Oprah is the better story. And in this case, voters went for the story, preferring the mastery of air waves by an up-from-poverty entertainer over mastery of algorithms by couple of Stanford brainiacs.
Last updated: Mar 30, 2012




Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: