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Wharton School of Business list of influential people

Feb 02, 20043 mins

* IT personalities receive accolade from Wharton Business School

The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania just released its list of the 25 Most Influential Business People of the Last 25 Years.  As you might imagine, hundreds of people were nominated for the honor.  The criteria for selection were simple.  A person must have: created new and profitable ideas; affected political, civic or social change through achievement in the business/economic world; caused or influenced dramatic change in a company or industry; created new business opportunities or more fully exploited existing ones; and, inspired and transformed the business world.

Looking back at the impact of computing on business during the past two and a half decades, it is not surprising that five out of the 25 most influential people have come from the IT industry.  And as for the others, IT clearly plays a strong role in their or their companies’ ability to compete.  For example, Jeff Bezos isn’t considered an icon of the IT industry, but no one can imagine even existing without the Internet and IT.

The person taking top honor on the list is Andy Grove, co-founder and chairman of Intel.  The Wharton judges believe his “unconventional approach put him in the right industry at the right time with the right mindset.”  They believe that modern computers wouldn’t have been possible without microprocessors, and Intel’s success wouldn’t have been possible without Grove’s leadership. They credit Grove with the “Intel Inside” branding brainchild, which has made Intel the gold standard of the PC industry. 

According to Mukul Pandya, editor & director of the Knowledge@Wharton Web site, other characteristics that make Grove the top business leader is his resolve to stick with his decisions until he reaches his goal.

Other IT industry luminaries on the Wharton list (in alphabetical order) are:

* Michael Dell, chairman and CEO, Dell – credited with revolutionizing an industry and supply chain by cutting out the middleman and selling customized computers directly to customers.

* Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect, Microsoft – with his vision for software, he changed the way we work and the way his employees work.  He is also credited with hiring a lot of very smart people and giving them the latitude to be entrepreneurial and creative.  Through his charitable foundation, Gates also uses his money and influence to make a social difference in the world.

* Lou Gerstner, former chairman and CEO, IBM – known for orchestrating the biggest corporate turnaround in 25 years by focusing on his core customers.

* Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Computer and CEO, Pixar Animation – cited for “building a better mousetrap,” yielding elegant, well-designed products that make computing easy.

By the way, the other members of this elite business club are:

* Mary Kay Ash, founder, Mary Kay.

* Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO,

* John Bogle, founder, The Vanguard Group.

* Richard Branson, founder, Virgin Group.

* Warren Buffet, chairman, Berkshire Hathaway.

* James Burke, CEO, Johnson & Johnson.

* Peter Drucker, author and educator.

* William George, Medtronic.

* Alan Greenspan, chairman, Federal Reserve Bank.

* Lee Ioccoca, former president, Chrysler.

* Herb Kelleher, chairman, Southwest Airlines.

* Peter Lynch, Fidelity Magellan Fund.

* Charles Schwab, founder, Charles Schwab & Company.

* Frederick Smith, chairman, president and CEO, FedEx.

* George Soros, chairman, Soros Fund Management.

* Ted Turner, founder, Turner Broadcasting System.

* Sam Walton, founder, Wal-Mart.

* Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO, General Electric.

* Oprah Winfrey, modern media mogul.

* Mohammed Yunus, founder, Grameen Bank.

Linda Musthaler is vice president of Currid & Company.  You can write to her at