The 75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America

BLACK ENTERPRISE (BE) today announced its list of the 75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America, as featured in the February 2005 cover story. The list, which includes 18 CEOs (15 men and three women), was culled from the 1,000 largest domestic and international corporations traded publicly on the U.S. equities markets. The top 75 include representatives from a total of 62 companies representing 12 industries.

The full list includes 15 women-the most to appear on similar lists compiled by BE. Young & Rubicam Brands CEO Ann M. Fudge represents one of three female chief executives. “I think African American women have met the challenges of corporate America,” she says, “and absolutely there is no doubt there will be an African American woman running a Fortune 500 company. It’s going to happen.”

In 1988 when BE named the 25 Hottest Corporate Managers, the list was devoid of black chief executives. By 1993, there were 12 presidents and two CEOs among the 40 African Americans included in the top tier: Richard D. Parsons, the then-CEO of Dime Savings Bank of New York, and Clifton R. Wharton Jr., CEO of TIAA-CREF. When BE selected the Top 50 Blacks in Corporate America in 2000, the number of CEOs had grown to six. This year, the number of African American CEOs rose to 18-a 300% increase. Franklin D. Raines, former chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae, re-signed his post shortly after the list was compiled.

Has progress been made? “Well yes and no,” says BE Founder and Publisher Earl G. Graves Sr. “While it is true that the corporate elite identified in our 2005 list represent a 300% increase over our 1988 list, it is also true that African Americans still hold less than 1% of the tens of thousands of senior-level, corporate posts at America’s 1,000 largest public corporations.” The 18 African American executives who have attained the rank of CEO are:

Kenneth I. Chenault, Chairman and CEO, American Express
Erroll B. Davis Jr., Chairman and CEO, Alliant Energy
Reginald E. Davis, CEO, Wachovia
W.H. “Bill” Easter III, Chairman, CEO, and President, Duke Energy Field Services
Ann M. Fudge, Chairman and CEO, Young & Rubicam Brands
Arthur “Art” H. Harper, CEO and President, GE Equipment Services
Carl Horton, CEO and President, The Absolut Spirit Company Inc
Aylwin Lewis, President and CEO, KMart
Renetta McCann, CEO, Starcom Americas
E. Stanley O’Neal, Chairman, CEO, and President, Merrill Lynch & Co.
Clarence Otis Jr., CEO, Darden Restaurants
Dan Packer, CEO and President, Entergy New Orleans
Richard D. Parsons, Chairman and CEO, Time Warner
Franklin D. Raines, former Chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae
Pamela Thomas-Graham, CEO and President, CNBC
John W. Thompson, Chairman and CEO, Symantec Corp.
Lloyd G. Trotter, CEO and President, GE Consumer and Industrial
R.L. “Bob” Wood, Chairman, CEO, and President, Crompton Corp.

Ten companies have multiple executives on the list. General Electric — the parent company of NBC-leads the way with four, followed by Xerox with three. Eight companies have two executives on the list: Duke Energy, Fannie Mae, FedEx Express Corp., Ford Motor Co., General Mills, McDonald’s USA, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., and Wachovia.

In a corporate environment that is often inhospitable to black professionals, these top executives say the number of blacks who reside in corner offices will continue to grow. “I think it’s extremely positive that we have a number of African American CEOs, presidents, and chief operating officers of major corporations as effective role models,” says Ronald A. Williams, president of the $17.9 billion Aetna Inc. “And it helps organizations focus on becoming more of a [meritocracy], where people can be judged on the basis of the value they create and not on the basis of their race or ethnicity.”

Paula Madison, president and general manager of Los Angeles-based KNBC and regional manager for two Telemundo stations, sums up her philosophy of the advancement of blacks, particularly women, simply: “The important thing is to continue getting us into the pipeline and have us positioned so that as more executive positions become available, we’re poised and ready to take advantage of the opportunities.”

“The corporate leaders on our inaugural list of top black managers set a standard of excellence that many of the executives on our 2005 list were challenged to match-and exceed. We are confident that today’s black corporate elite will do the same for future generations of African American corporate achievers,” says Graves.

The selection criteria and comprehensive profiles of the 75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America is available in the February issue of BLACK ENTERPRISE, available on newsstands January 18.

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