What do George Clooney, Bill Gates, President Obama and Steve Slater have in common? They’re famous, of course (quitting your flight attendant job via emergency exit shute deployment will do that for you) and, for the most part, quite wealthy. They’re also all on AskMen’s “Top 49 Most Influential Men of 2010” list, released today, featuring prominent figures from all backgrounds: politics, sports, entertainment, technology. We handpicked the 10 honorees below because they are all businessmen or entrepreneurs: an “occupation” that doesn’t easily translate to celebrity. (Yes, this means that George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lebron James and Kanye West didn’t actually make our cut. Sorry.)
See the full ranking, along with where they actually placed, on AskMen.com.
1. Bill Gates
In 2009, it was reported that Bill Gates lost close to $18 billion, and still he retained his top position on the Forbes 400 as the richest man in the world. With a net worth somewhere in the $40 billion range, we take it Gates didn’t feel the credit crunch like the rest of us.
In fact, 2010 saw the Microsoft founder do anything but save. No longer involved in the day-to-day duties of his software empire, Gates has embraced his second career as a philanthropist. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is currently the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world, and it’s spearheaded by Gates’ unflinching commitment to ending poverty in developing countries and improving education in the United States.
The foundation is also committed to curing many of the world’s most fatal diseases, and got a huge boost when fellow billionaire Warren Buffett contributed $31 billion in 2006. Since then, Gates and Buffett have formed The Giving Pledge, an organization dedicated to inviting the wealthiest Americans to “commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.” Gates and Buffett have even traveled to China to speak with a few dozen of the country’s richest citizens to spread the world overseas. In theory, it would be easy to hate a man with that much money, especially if he spent his days on a yacht in the Riviera banging models. Instead, Bill Gates offsets his bloated title as one of the world’s richest men by being its most generous.
He’s 26 years old, the founder of the world’s largest social network and just passed Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch to become the 35th richest person on the Forbes 400 list. So why is Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, so down? It probably has something to do with the release of David Fincher’s zeitgeist-defining film, The Social Network, which is a sordid examination of the creation of Facebook. In the film — already a front-runner to snag Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards — Zuckerberg is portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg as a backstabbing, scheming narcissist, obsessed with his own legacy. He’s the smartest guy in the room, and he certainly acts like it.
But that’s Hollywood’s version of Zuckerberg, and it’s a far cry from the socially awkward boy wonder who just donated $100 million to the Newark, New Jersey Public School System, a move most likely designed as an effort to subdue the avalanche of bad publicity that has suffocated Zuckerberg since the release of the film. Ironically, we may never truly know the real Mark Zuckerberg, the man who made a fortune on the depersonalization of our personal lives. Despite his negative portrayal in the media, there’s no denying the profound effect his brainchild has had on all our lives. We would go into greater detail, but we have a friend request to accept.
3. Steve Jobs
It’s next to impossible to walk through the streets of any major metropolis, through its cafes, office buildings and classrooms, and not be flooded with a sea of iPhones, iPods, iPads, and MacBooks. There we sit, immersed in extensions of our digital selves, tapping, pinching and typing our way to a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us. This is the legacy of Steve Jobs, Apple’s visionary cofounder and CEO.
But Jobs hasn’t only revolutionized the electronics industry, he’s also changed the way we consume content. His wildly successful iTunes Store has given Hollywood an outlet to shop its product to online users without having to succumb to the claws of piracy. The iPad’s approach to content management has been hailed as the death knell for all things print.
Apple product introduction events — which feature Jobs in his classic black turtleneck and daddy dungarees — are as highly anticipated as a Hollywood blockbuster. The introduction of the iPhone 4 earlier this year inspired more fandemonium than the world’s greatest rock stars. When speculation of Jobs’ poor health arose last year, techies everywhere collectively held their breath and prayed for a miracle. Well, guess what: The bespectacled one is still around, and both he and his creations aren’t going anywhere.
4. Elon Musk
Elon Musk is only one romance with Gwyneth Paltrow and an expensive superhero costume away from becoming Tony Stark’s real-life alter ego. Mentioned by Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau as a key source of inspiration, Musk remains one of pop culture’s wealthiest and most fascinatingly diverse entrepreneurs. Having already drastically changed the way we pay for things online by cofounding PayPal, he’s now steadfast in his quest to shape which cars we drive and which planets we live on.
The founding visionary behind Tesla Motors, Elon Musk was named 2010’s Automotive Executive of the Year for his role in developing modern electric vehicles like the newly announced Mercedes A-Class, Toyota RAV4 EV crossover SUV and Tesla’s staple electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster. With over 25 countries and counting receiving the cars, Musk is already bringing automotive electricity across international borders in advance of a bigger push in 2012.
If all else fails on Earth, he’ll just send us to another planet through his space transportation business, SpaceX, which recently completed its debut space shuttle, Dragon. For his trouble, Elon Musk earned more thanks this year from the Kitty Hawk Foundation as a Living Legend in Aviation. Is there anything he can’t do? In a word… no.
Anyone who thinks that print is dead clearly hasn’t been keeping tabs on Graydon Carter. Hailed by Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer as “the king of New York,” this modern-day dandy has been taking the world by storm since 1992, when he was named editor of Vanity Fair. He has since guided the glossy magazine to 11 National Magazine Awards while increasing its advertising pages by a staggering 60%. While other glossies are thinning their pages, Carter pursues stories other magazines don’t have the resources and dedication to tackle, such as the ongoing “Madoff Chronicles” of 2009, which exposed the details of Bernie Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme. And then there was “The Temptation of Tiger Woods” in May of 2010, in which the magazine spoke to and photographed four of Woods’ former mistresses, all the while piecing together the tragic downfall of a one-time legend.
Of course, Carter’s influence isn’t just limited to his revered publication. This flamboyant polymath has also produced a handful of critically acclaimed documentaries over the years, including Chicago 10, Surfwise, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, The Kid Stays in the Picture, and 9/11, for which he won an Emmy and a Peabody Award. He’s also the owner of the Waverly Inn and the Monkey Bar, a pair of tremendously chic New York City restaurants that have become a home away from home for the city’s top movers and shakers. Add it all up and it’s clear that Graydon Carter has become every bit as famous as the celebrities he profiles in his delectably cultivated magazine.
Sir Richard Branson is a modern-day Midas. This English entrepreneur has been turning everything he touches into gold since 1970, when he launched a modest mail-order record business. That humble operation soon evolved into Virgin Music, making him and his partners wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.
Branson has since branched out into television, radio, broadband, air travel, rail, health care, and finance. Today, he is worth more than $4 billion. That kind of wealth can buy a lot of happiness and Branson has used his cash over the years to fulfill a number of outrageous boyhood dreams — like driving a tank down Fifth Avenue in New York and attempting to circumnavigate the globe by balloon.
So, what is this restless media mogul going to do next? Branson recently expanded his UK banking empire with the purchase of Church House Trust and he has announced detailed plans to launch a series of luxurious four-star hotels throughout North America. His heavily hyped space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, recently completed its first solo flight and is inching closer and closer to offering commercial space flights. It’s just one more way this brash businessman plans to go where no man has gone before.
Forget Greek gods. Today, it’s all about “Geek” gods, and Dennis Crowley — founder of Foursquare, one of the most exciting mobile applications to come along in some time — is the new kid on the block. In comparison with the whales of Silicon Valley — Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, and Larry Page included — Crowley is still a minnow. For now. With over four million users worldwide and counting, Foursquare is about to blow up, and Crowley’s relative anonymity will go along with it.
The app, which allows users to “check in” at restaurants, bars, stores, parks, and pretty much anywhere else you can think of, was initially embraced by New York’s trendsetters, but has since expanded globally. Suddenly, becoming “mayor” of a location (a title awarded to users who frequent a specific locale most often) is as coveted as getting followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook.
The soaring popularity of Foursquare (it crossed the one million-user mark faster than Twitter) has made Crowley one of the most sought-after men in Silicon Valley, an enviable position that doesn’t go without its perks. Like a good social networker should, Crowley posts every minute of the life of a mogul-in-the-making online, and if his recent exploits are any indication (lavish dinners, high-powered meetings), we may just be witnessing the birth of the Silicon Valley’s next great superstar. Make that “mayor.”
8. Mark Carney
In a global economy that is still being stained with red ink, Mark Carney’s sure hand and bold decisions are keeping Canadians in the black. A graduate of both Harvard and Nuffield College in Oxford, Carney spent over a decade at Goldman Sachs, where he was a key player in South Africa and Russia during their respective efforts to grow within international money markets and find sustainability during an economic crisis.
Mark Carney’s most significant tests have come since his appointment with the Bank of Canada as the youngest serving governor among all G8 countries. Brought into the position in 2008, he went toe-to-toe with a global recession almost immediately and made a significant impact when he spearheaded the opposition to a global bank tax that was tabled at the 2010 G20 Summit. In short, Mark Carney’s shrewd decision-making and concern for his nation’s economy are what have kept Canada from experiencing the same depths of economic downfall that have befallen other developed countries. Canada owes a large part of its brief financial crunch and strong economic recovery to him.
The more the financial markets fluctuate, the more Henry Blodget has something to say. Originally a respected financial player for Merrill Lynch who predicted Amazon.com’s colossal stock increase in the late ’90s, Henry Blodget’s tech boom-era opinions were trusted by many until Eliot Spitzer — Attorney General of New York — outed him as a hypocrite. Faced with a multimillion-dollar fine, a ban from working anywhere near the securities industry and the embarrassment of having made predictions allegedly based on his employer’s best interests, it was a longshot that Henry Blodget could ever regain his fame or secure a place on the list of AskMen’s Top 49 Men anytime soon. How things change.
Henry Blodget’s cofounding of the financial news blog Business Insider in 2009 has transformed him into the financial sector’s answer to Harvey Levin and attracted upwards of 4 million unique visitors each month. Also doubling as the host of Yahoo! TechTicker on the web juggernaut Yahoo! Finance, Henry Blodget has — most importantly — been given another chance to talk economics at a time when people are especially desperate for insights into the financial turbulence that continues to swirl around them.
10. Steve Slater
Every employee at some point or another becomes fed up with their job, has dreams of lashing out at a pompous boss or an annoying coworker, but then thinks twice because in the end, nothing speaks louder than the almighty dollar. Steve Slater is not every employee. When the former JetBlue flight attendant was involved in an altercation with a passenger aboard a flight, his patience gave way to anger. Slater went on a profanity-laced tirade over the PA system, quit, took two beers for the road, and slid down the emergency exit chute onto the tarmac, becoming an instant folk hero along the way.
But Slater’s sudden celebrity slowly gave way to more pressing issues: What really happened on the plane (Slater claims he was hit in the head by a passenger’s luggage)? And were his actions criminal? JetBlue has stressed the seriousness of Slater’s slide deployment, maintaining that the force at which the slide releases is equivalent to that of a gun, and could have killed someone. Luckily for Slater, the incident won’t result in any serious criminal charges, though something tells us his desire to remain a flight attendant will go unfulfilled. Still, our kudos go out to Slater for doing what so many of us would never have the gumption to do. We hope that the unemployment line isn’t too long!