Fortune names Steve Jobs as CEO of the Century, So Far

A case could be made for the Google guys, Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim, Oprah Winfrey and others, but in the end, decided the editors of Fortune, there was but one clear choice for the title of CEO of the Decade: Apple’s Steve Jobs. His place in history was already assured by his accomplishments in previous decades, but as Fortune notes, his achievements since the turn of the century (what did we decide to call this decade? The Aughts?) have been remarkable.

“In the past 10 years alone he has radically and lucratively reordered three markets — music, movies, and mobile telephones — and his impact on his original industry, computing, has only grown,” writes Adam Lashinsky. “Remaking any one business is a career-defining achievement; four is unheard-of. Think about that for a moment. Henry Ford altered the course of the nascent auto industry. PanAm’s Juan Trippe invented the global airline. Conrad Hilton internationalized American hospitality. In all instances, and many more like them, these entrepreneurs turned captains of industry defined a single market that had previously not been dominated by anyone. The industries that Jobs has turned topsy-turvy already existed when he focused on them. … The financial results have been nothing short of astounding — for Apple and for Jobs. The company was worth about $5 billion in 2000, just before Jobs unleashed Apple’s groundbreaking ‘digital lifestyle’ strategy, understood at the time by few critics. Today, at about $170 billion, Apple is slightly more valuable than Google.”

His peers were equally lavish in their praise. Former Intel CEO Andy Grove called Jobs “the turnaround artist of the decade. There’s no other company in technology that’s started with a strong core business and developed another very strong one. The rest of us are lucky, or good, [if we’re] right once.” Netscape founder and venture capitalist Mark Andreessen said, “I don’t know if publicly this is known, but when he came back [to Apple in 1997], they were weeks away from going bankrupt. He went from weeks away from bankruptcy to building these kinds of products. He was under pressure the entire time. But he set the performance standard for product thinking and product execution that all the rest of us should aspire to hit.” And Oracle CEO Larry Ellison offered testimony to Jobs’ unyielding vision: “I remember when Steve was my neighbor in Woodside, Calif., and he had no furniture. It struck me that there wasn’t furniture good enough for Steve in the world. He’d rather have nothing if he couldn’t have perfection. And I jokingly said, “The difference between me and Steve is that I’m willing to live with the best the world can provide. With Steve that’s not always good enough.” And if you look at how he tackles building a phone, or building a laptop, he really is in pursuit of this technical and aesthetic perfection. And he just won’t compromise.”


Share this Post

  • andrew

    Nobody says Aughts. It’s 2000s.

  • RedRat

    Goes to show you how superficial Fortune Magazine is.

    My vote would be for the Google guys. Apple has a small following of “fan-boys”, but who contributed the phrase “google it” to our lexicon. Google permeates just about everything we do online, it hasn’t been christened the “Search Sovereign” for nothing.

  • picollo


    You mean Eric Schmidt? He’s only been CEO of Google since 2001. And he’s only just nourished the company along, he wasn’t the true visionary.

    Methinks not.

  • Brian

    I like to call this decade the Naughties. You can spell it Noughties if you like but it’s not as much fun.

  • RedRat

    picollo says:
    November 5th, 2009 at 1:02 pm


    You mean Eric Schmidt? He’s only been CEO of Google since 2001. And he’s only just nourished the company along, he wasn’t the true visionary.

    Methinks not.
    No not Eric Schmidt! While the CEO and perhaps a contributor to Google’s success, I meant the original founders of Google: Sergey Brin and Larry Page. That is why I said “guys”. I think they still influence the direction that Google moves. So very definitely them. Schmidt is very much the face of Google, it would appear, from all of his appearances on TV and various Obama committees. An important figure for now, but I think Brin and Page, by their startup and continuing input are far more transformative.

    Steve Jobs saved Apple computer but all he did was put a pretty face on the modern computer and other devices out of Apple. Perhaps as an inspiration to designers he deserves some kind of award but hardly transformative.

  • curmudgeon2000

    Funny how Ellison and Grove are mentioned as Jobs’ peers, since they
    have well-deserved reputations as being big pricks also. I guess today’s
    values are that you don’t have to treat the people around you very well,
    as long as you make the board members and shareholders lots of money.

  • sd

    @curmudgeon2000, you have it exactly right. In American corporate business, the only thing that counts is share price. To he!! with customers and employees. They’re just collateral (in both meanings of the word).

    Then again, I get allergic whenever anyone suggests that ANY CEO is worthy of that kind of honor. Jobs may be visionary (as may be Brin and Page /et al/), but no CEO is the company. The designers, the engineers, the customer-relations/support folks, the people loading the pallets — they’re the company, because their failure undermines the loftiest plans of the most visionary CEO. Why we pay CEOs so much considering their impact on most corporations just amazes me.

  • Joel West

    The problem with the Google analogy is that Google has no Steve Jobs. Jobs is the vision, the leader and the manager. At Google, Page and Brin had the original vision, but needed grown up supervision and the ability to keep the megatanker on course from Schmidt.

    Besides, neither Page nor Brin would be eligible for “CEO of the decade” since they’re not CEOs.

  • ToNYC

    Apple stuff is just fluff that if it never existed, there would be nothing missed….closed systems , DRM music, touchy-squeezy phones, my way or the highway, pay double and often…way too cool but not so hot.

  • Reggie Roberts

    RedRat, Apple fan boys aren’t buying up all those iPods, my friend.
    iPod is the standard for portable music players as much as google is the standard for search engines.

  • sd

    ToNYC, 1995 called. It wants its argument back. Just replace the word “Apple” with the word “Sony” and see how smoothly your paragraph reads.

  • Gareth Hughes

    Who do you think pioneered the Personal Computer market? Jobs

    Who developed the PDA before it’s time “Apple Newton remember IT” ? Jobs

    Who do you think had the vision to invest in a CGI company which produced the world first CGI film? Jobs

    Who made computer cool and not just for geeks? Jobs

    Who decided that boring old beige boxes were uncool. Jobs

    Who had the vision to develop the Unix OS “Next” into the easy to use OS X Jobs

    Who did Bill Gates steal from? Jobs

    Sure the Google guys are great, but Jobs has been around and a visionary since the 70’s