Final Round: It's Gates vs. Oprah for the Crown
Brackets players, you seemed to be hedging your bets in Inc.'s Greatest Living Entrepreneur Tournament. In the final-four matchup between Bill Gates and Richard Branson, you chose business efficiency over flash, handing victory to the geeky software magnate over the flashy godfather of Virgin. In the matchup between Oprah and Howard Schultz you did the opposite, preferring TV glitter over business philosophizing. Well, no more hedging. By Tuesday morning, there can be only one winner. Stay tuned.
(By the way, if the final matchup shows the same gender bias as the brackets scores, the game's in Oprah's pocket. Look to the right: Women brackets players now hold the top three spots on the leaderboard. Anyone surprised?)
As you'd hope at this stage of the brackets, the competition was pretty even. Both Gates and Branson have spun businesses they started as college-age kids into billion-dollar global enterprises. Both are household names; both have become elder statesmen of business and serious philanthropists. But the similarity ends there. Gates is a hedgehog, an earnest business leader who knew one thing—technology—very well. Branson is a fox, a multi-talented character who remade several businesses in his own glamorous personal image. In the end, though, the voters preferred the hedgehog. Gate's image may be barely visible, his charisma undetectable. But his business democratized information and remade the entire world.
Oprah's win over Howard Schultz reprises her win over Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Like the Google boys, Schultz built a more complex and sophisticated business than Winfrey did, and even more than Larry and Sergey have done with Google, he has gone on to explain his success and showed other entrepreneurs a path they, too, could follow. But not even the founder of Starbucks could match the founder of The Oprah Winfrey show for star wattage, or for the inspirational quality of her life history—which rises from the inner city of Milwaukee to become for a time the world's sole living black billionaire. It's only fitting that the final boils down to her and Bill Gates.
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