Closing Thoughts: Six Degrees of Separation

Some Inc. 500 companies sure know what it means to network

The Inc. 500 isn't only a ranking of companies. As it turns out, it also comprises a few people who move in glamorous circles, including pro sports, politics, and entertainment. In fact, this year's Inc. 500 can count an impressive sampling of famous acquaintances -- even if by only the most casual of business relationships. Think of it as a professional "six degrees of separation" game. Imagine if we invited all of them to next summer's Inc. 500 conference. We think we'd have the makings for one hell of a cocktail party.

Curtis Jones of MasterMind Technologies (#354) came close to playing lead guitar for heavy-metal rocker Ozzy Osbourne. Jones auditioned for the gig in London in 1983. "I was told at one point that I was one of three finalists, but I didn't get it," Jones recalls.

Ozzy might not be the only bad boy at our fete, as Latrell Sprewell is also connected to the Inc. 500. The sullen basketball star famously endorsed the shoes made by And 1 (#228) after Converse released him from his contract following an incident in which he choked his coach.

Spree's fellow New Yorker Susan Molinari -- noteworthy for delivering the keynote address at the 1996 Republican National Convention -- also makes the cut. She's one of several politicos on the advisory board of (#45).

Her former colleague Congressman Henry Hyde retained the Presentation Group (#346) to create large, colorful exhibits for President Clinton's 1999 impeachment trial. The Presentation Group also worked with Johnnie Cochran, who tapped the company's expertise to help win $240 million in damages from the Walt Disney Co.

Rounding out the legal-eagle contingent is Ed Koch. The former New York mayor and onetime The People's Court judge once employed the chef who came up with the recipe for Wetzel's Pretzels (#235).

More doughy connections: the muffin tops produced by Prairie City Bakery (#396) received a boost when Jerry Seinfeld devoted an episode of his top-rated sitcom to them. (You can view the clip at Similarly, Oregon Chai (#18) has received on-air attention from Tori Spelling of Beverly Hills 90210 and Courteney Cox Arquette of Friends.

Also, veteran golfer Jack Nicklaus was at press time planning to team up with Ahead Headgear (#11) to market a line of golf hats. CEO Ken Shwartz is actually on his second celebrity-hat company. His last business held the hat rights for The Simpsons, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and New Kids on the Block.

And finally, perhaps we can persuade Jay Leno to emcee our big bash. After all, The Tonight Show host has filmed certain segments in front of a Jamba Juice (#94) store in Los Angeles. The crowd we've assembled above ought to provide him with plenty of good gag material.

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