At some point, almost no mega-founder can resist early retirement. It hit Google at the end of 2019. Larry Page and Sergej Brin retired from the top of the parent company Alphabet. The search engine pioneers, who were only in their mid-40s, are still far from retiring. Who knows, maybe you can even expect another stroke of genius from them. When they say goodbye to their company, however, in the public consciousness they are one of the “elder statesmen” of Microsoft’s grandfather Bill Gates.
Founder CEOs are the exception
A look at the current “Fortune 500” list shows that only 14 of the 500 top-selling companies in the USA are still managed by their founder. An obvious cause is the age of a company. But the example of Google shows that even younger companies often lose their founders early. It is not infrequently due to success. With a billion assets behind, the momentum for day-to-day business is easily lost.
Founders are also often pioneers and prefer to look for new challenges after a while. However, they are also pushed out of their companies in crises if they have given up power to supervisory boards and major shareholders in the course of growth and who prefer a manager according to the visionary.
Founder as a strong CEO
However, some exceptional entrepreneurs show perseverance. They have been at the top of their company for decades, leading them from success to success. Or take a position so self-confident that a successor might not have dared – see the public “So Not” by Twitter boss Jack Dorsey against the fake news tirades by US President Donald Trump.
Founder bosses are a rarity in the top group of US companies. You only manage 43 of the 1000 largest US companies. Only one of them made the Top 40 in the Fortune 500. For this, this CEO plays in his own league.
These US companies are run by their founder.
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# 14 Intercontinental Exchange
Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) ranks 459th in the Fortune 500 with sales of $ 6.5 billion. Jeffrey Sprecher founded the exchange operator in May 2000 and is still the chairman and CEO. He was able to increase sales of his Atlanta-based company in Georgia in the past fiscal year by 4.3 percent and improve the ranking by ten places. Speaker (born 1955) is also the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.
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# 13 Blackstone Group
The Blackstone Group by Stephen Schwarzman (born 1947) rose 22 places in the Fortune 500 to 420th place. The investment company’s sales rose 7.4 percent to $ 7.3 billion. Under Schwarzman’s leadership, profits increased by a third (32.9 percent) to $ 2.0 billion.
@imago images / MediaPunch
# 12 Regeneration Pharmaceuticals
In 1988, the former medical professor Leonard Schleifer (born 1953) founded the pharmaceutical company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals with the researcher George Yancopoulos. It ranked 405th in the 2020 Fortune 500 ranking with sales of $ 7.9 billion. That was 45 places better than the year before. Sales increased by 17.2 percent. However, profit fell 13.4 percent to $ 2.1 billion.
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# 11 Wayfair
In 2002 Wayfair was one of the pioneers of e-commerce. The company was founded by fellow students Niraj Shah and Steve Conine. Today, the online furniture retailer ranks 348 in the list of the top-selling US companies. According to Fortune, sales rose by around a third (34.6 percent) to $ 9.1 billion. It went up 98 places. However, CEO Shah’s corporation (co-founder Conine is co-chairman) incurred $ 984.6 million in losses.
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# 10 Steel Dynamics
Steel Dynamics by founder-CEO Mark Millett is not a particularly good year. One of the largest steelmakers in North America saw sales drop 11.5 percent to $ 10.5 billion. Profits decreased 46.7 percent to $ 671 million.
@imago images / Alexander Pohl
# 9 NVidia
The founder-CEO Jen-Hsun Huang also has to weather a crisis at the technology group Nvidia. Graphics processor developer sales fell 6.8 percent to $ 10.9 billion, Fortune said. Profits plummeted 32.5 percent to $ 2.8 billion.
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# 8 Las Vegas Sands
Sheldon Adelson has become very rich in gambling. Forbes recently estimated the assets of the founder and CEO of casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corporation at $ 26.8 billion. That was enough for 28th place of the richest people in the world. Adelson’s real estate empire includes the Venetian Resort Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip with the replica canals of the lagoon city. Las Vegas Sands was ranked 235th in the Fortune 500 with $ 13.7 billion in sales. Sales remained the same compared to the previous fiscal year, with profits up 11.8 percent to $ 2.7 billion.
@imago images / Levine Roberts
# 7 Salesforce
Salesforce.com by Marc Benioff (born in 1964) went up 50 places in the ranking. The pioneer of cloud computing solutions increased sales by 28.7 percent to $ 17.1 billion. That was enough for 190th place. In contrast, profits fell by 88.6 percent to $ 126 million. Ex-Oracle manager Benioff founded the company in 1999 in his hometown of San Francisco.
@imago images / MiS
# 6 Netflix
Another digital pioneer can be found on the list of the largest US companies for which the founder still has the say. Netflix by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph started in 1997 as a DVD rental by post. The successor format of the VHS video cassette had only just been introduced in the USA that year. Randolpf was the first CEO of Netflix. Two years after it was founded, he ceded the position to co-founder Hastings. He still directs the fortunes of the streaming giant. Netflix rose 33 places to Fort 164 in Fortune 500. Revenue climbed 27.6 percent to $ 20.2 billion. Profits increased 54.1 percent to $ 1.9 billion. The boom resulting from the Corona crisis will bring Hastings 2021 an even better record.
@imago images / Action Pictures
# 5 Tesla
Can someone be the founder of a company if they joined the company less than a year later? Sure, said Elon Musk. Martin Eberhard, who founded the electric car manufacturer with Marc Tarpenning in July 2003, subsequently took legal action. The engineer accused the PayPal co-founder of history. The parties agreed out of court and suddenly Tesla officially had five founders. Musk had to vacate the post of CEO at the end of 2018. The reason was his public speculation about a possible privatization of the car maker. The sole founder of SpaceX is still CEO of Tesla. The group ranks 124th in the current Fortune 500, 20 ranks better than last year. Revenue increased 14.5 percent to $ 24.6 billion. This was offset by losses of $ 862 million.
@imago images / Levine Roberts
# 4 Personal-Financial.com One Financial
The financial service provider Personal-Financial.com One is firmly in the hands of Richard Fairbank. He founded the company in 1994 with Nigel Morris and is the chairman of the board, president and CEO. Personal-Financial.com One was 97th with sales of $ 33.8 billion (up 4.3 percent). The profit was $ 5.5 billion (down 7.8 percent).
@imago images / Dean Pictures
# 3 FedEx
Frederick Smith is an exception. With FedEx, he not only heads the third largest US company in this ranking. Smith celebrates 50th anniversary in 2021. This makes the Yale graduate (born in 1944) by far the longest-serving founder-CEO of the Fortune 500. There, the logistics company was ranked 47th with sales of $ 69.7 billion (plus 6.5 percent). However, profit fell by 88 , 2 percent to $ 540 million.
@imago images / ZUMA Wire
# 2 Facebook
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Facebook isn’t even 20 years old. In February 2004, Mark Zuckerberg founded the social network with four companions, whose destiny he still directs as CEO today – much to the regret of his critics, who see Zuckerberg as a gateway for data thieves and democracy enemies. The digital corporation rose from eleventh to 46th in the Fortune 500. Revenue increased 26.6 percent to $ 70.7 billion. In contrast, profits fell 16.4 percent to $ 18.5 billion.
@imago images / Manfred Segerer
# 1 Amazon
Amazon grows and grows and grows. That was already a reality before the boom in the corona crisis. Jeff Bezos’ online giant improved by three places to second place in the “Fortune” ranking. He left Apple and Exxon Mobil with sales of $ 280.5 billion (up 20.5 percent) and is now attacking Walmart. However, the retailer is far ahead of Amazon with sales of $ 524.0 billion. But who knows what the balance sheet will look like in a few years? In any case, Bezos (born in 1964) can sit back and relax. The richest person in the world (apart from monarchs and dictators), according to Forbes, appears to be unassailable a quarter of a century after the company was founded as President and CEO of Amazon.