By Peter Aspden, Ralph Atkins, Justin Baer, Bertrand Benoit, Jonathan Birchall, James Blitz, Roger Blitz, Clive Cookson, Mure Dickie, Geoff Dyer, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, Ben Fenton, Matthew Garrahan, David Gelles, Chris Giles, Francesco Guerrera, Krishna Guha, Kathrin Hille, Andrew Jack, Johanna Kassel, Roula Khalaf, James Lamont, Edward Luce, Peter Marsh, Joseph Menn, Joseph Milton, Josh Noble, George Parker, David Pilling, Stefan Wagstyl, William Wallis, Richard Waters and Jonathan Wheatley
Published: December 29 2009 02:00 | Last updated: December 29 2009 02:00
1 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad President, Iran
The symbol of the Islamic Republic’s defiance of the west in its pursuit of a nuclear programme. His belligerence, however, has turned many Iranians against their rulers. Protests followed his re-election in 2009, when opponents alleged widespread fraud.
2 Osama bin Laden al-Qaeda leader
The mastermind behind the attacks on the US of September 11 2001, which triggered the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and were precursor to a wave of terrorism in countries such as Britain, Spain, India and Indonesia.His death or capture – western intelligence agencies are confident he is in the Pakistani tribal areas – would be a blow to the jihadist insurgency.
3 Tony Blair Former UK prime minister
New Labour’s “straight kinda guy” dominated British politics in the first half of the decade but the euphoria had worn thin by his third victory in 2005. He was widely seen in Britain as former president George W. Bush’s poodle as he followed the US into Iraq in 2003. He now earns millions making speeches and representing banks; he is also a Middle East peace envoy.
4 George W. Bush Former US president
A broad consensus holds that the 43rd president was one of the least competent. For expanding the “war on terror” after the September 11 2001 attacks to include the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he is charged with leaving his country isolated. Having inherited a budget surplus, he is accused of bequeathing the largest deficit since the second world war.
5 Sonia Gandhi President of India’s ruling Congress party
As well as rebuilding India’s largest party and assuring the continuity of the Nehru-Gandhi family after the assassinations of her husband, Rajiv, and mother-in-law, Indira, she has upheld the secular vision of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister.
6 Al Gore Climate change activist
Since failing to persuade his countrymen to sign up to the Kyoto protocol in 1997 as US vice-president, he has done more than any individual to draw attention to man-made climate change – primarily through his 2006 film, An Inconvenient Truth . In 2007, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.
7 Hu Jintao Chinese president
Has guidedrapid expansion even during the global financial crisis. On the diplomatic front, he has overseen the country’s increasingly confident international role. Domestic fragilities remain, however, including ethnic tensions in Tibet and Xinjiang.
8 AQ Khan Nuclear scientist
Leader of the teamthat helped Pakistan bridge the nuclear gap with India but some of his methods, such as the use of global black markets, tarnished his achievement. Freed this year after five years of effective house arrest for sharing information with Iran, Libya and North Korea.
9 Paul Kagame President of Rwanda Admired in the west and the sub-region for his leadership in rebuilding Rwanda since 1994’s genocide – and blamed for his army’s role in Congo’s wars. Has prioritised economic development over political freedom.
10 Junichiro Koizumi Former prime minister of Japan
The most charismatic prime minister for decadesforced the long-ruling Liberal Democratic party to change. His drive to privatise the post office won backing from voters in 2005. He left the political stage in 2006; this year, his party suffered electoral defeat.
11 Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva President, Brazil
The country’s most popular leader yet. Charm and political skill no doubt contribute but so do low inflation and cheap but effective income-transfer programmes. Many including the International Monetary Fund expect Brazil to be the world’s fifth biggest economy before 2020, bringing lasting change to the world order.
12 Trevor Manuel Former finance minister, South Africa
One of the emerging markets’ most influential policymakers and, until this year, the world’s longest serving finance minister. Kept inflation under control and maintained fiscal discipline. Mere rumours of his departure provoked a fall in the rand.
13 Kumari Mayawati Chief minister, Uttar Pradesh, India
A champion of the Dalits at the bottom of the Hindu caste ladder. Since her 2007 victory in India’s most populous state, and one of its poorest, she has transformed the state capital with huge monuments to Dalit heroes.
14 Angela Merkel Chancellor, Germany
The first female chancellor and the first raised in the former East. The most popular postwar leader has acted as a moderator over two coalitions, most recently of the centre right. Under her management, Germany has weathered well its steepest downturn in almost a century.
15 Barack Obama US president
His impact since his 2008 victory has been more symbolic than substantive. As the first African-American president, his election replenished global respect for the promise of his country but also underscored a shift in the way it deals with the world. Unlike his predecessor, he seems comfortable with the idea of multipolarity.
16 Rima Khalaf Hunaidi Human rights advocate
The former assistant secretary-general of the regional bureau for Arab states at the UN Development Programme oversaw the Arab Human Development report in 2002, the first in a series that forced the region to recognise deficiencies in areas such as women’s rights and democracy.
17 Vladimir Putin Prime minister, Russia
When the former KGB man came to power in 2000 he set to work restoring great power status, imposing control over the country’s 89 provinces, natural resources, bureaucracy and neighbours.He remains the most powerful man in Russia.
18 Jeff Bezos Founder and chief executive, Amazon.com
Amazon ends the decade as the world’s largest internet retailer, with sales expected to grow by about 25 per cent this year to more than $23bn. In 2008, Mr Bezos launched the Kindle electronic reader.
19 Lloyd Blankfein Chief executive, Goldman Sachs
Under his direction, the firm emerged from the financial crisisthe way it en- tered it: as the most powerful investment bank. Yet this year’s recovery has fuelled a backlash, shining a spotlight on its secrecy and compensation.
20 Warren Buffett Chairman and chief executive, Berkshire Hathaway
His reputation as the best living investor long since secured, he spent much of this decade as a statesman and philanthropist. While the downturn has taken a toll on many of his businesses,he has recently made some of his biggest and boldest deals.
21 Liu Chuanzhi Chairman and founder, Lenovo
Changed the computer industrywhen his company acquired IBM’s personal computer division in 2005 in a $1.75bn deal. Also showed China how to build a multinational by moving headquarters abroad and including foreigners in management.
22 Angelo Mozilo Co-founder, Countrywide
As the former head of one of the largest mortgage lenders in the US, has come to epitomise subprime lending. Left Countrywide in 2008 after a rescue takeover by Bank of America.
23 Mo Ibrahim Telecommunications magnate
An entrepreneur and philanthropistwho is one of Africa’s most sought-after voices. Took an early punt on the potential of mobile phones to transform the continent and came out, after selling his company Celtel in 2005, $2bn richer. Proved it is possible to build a world-class African company with a clean reputationand showed investors there is demand for services despite widespread poverty.
24 Steve Jobs Chief executive, Apple
The company was on the brink of irrelevance at the start of the decade when he unveiled the iPod, followed by the iTunes Music Store, which helped insulate the music industry from piracy. With the iPhone, Apple generates more profit from handsets than any other company, analysts say, and has created an ecosystem of more than 100,000 applications.
25 Mikhail Khodorkovsky Jailed Russian oil tycoon
Once Russia’s richest man, now its most famous prisoner. In 2003 the former head of the Yukos oil group was arrested following hints he might run for president, then found guilty of fraud and jailed in proceedings supporters condemned as politically motivated. Yukos’ assets were seized and sold to state companies. Just before he became eligible for parole he was put on trial again for fresh offences.
26 Mohamed bin Rashid al Maktoum Prime minister and vice-president, United Arab Emirates
Dubai’s ruler helped establish the emirate as the region’s leading business hub. By the end of the decade, crushed under debt, it looked like an example of pre-crisis excess.
27 Lakshmi Mittal Steel magnate
Has used a series of increasingly large global acquisitions to construct the world’s largest steel producer. His biggest was the €26.9bn purchase of Luxembourg-based Arcelor in 2006. Faces a tough 2010, as the sector looks set for only a faltering recovery.
28 Indra Nooyi Chief executive, PepsiCo
Indian born and Yale educated, she seemed to epitomise both the decade’s spirit of globalisation and a new generation of female CEO when she was appointed in 2006. Her initiatives have included a push to revitalise PepsiCo’s North American drinks business.
29 Larry Page and Sergey Brin Founders, Google
Their uncompromising engineering sensibility brought them into conflict withtraditional industries, from media to communications. “Do no evil”, their declaration at the time of their Wall Street debut in 2004, drew accusations of naivety and arrogance from rivals but they show no sign of losing their outsized ambition.
30 Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, Evan Williams Founders, Twitter
The web-based system for communicating short updates was such a simple idea that it took the founders months to realise what they had come up with in 2006. The trio, all previously involved with less successful start-ups, has turned down a buy-out approach from Facebook.
31 Meg Whitman Former president and chief executive, Ebay
Under her leadership, from 1998 to 2008, the online auctioneer grew into a powerhouse with almost $8bn in revenue. Having accumulated a personal fortune of $1.3bn, she has turned her attention to politics and is working to succeed Arnold Schwar-zenegger as California governor.
32 Ben Bernanke Chairman, US Federal Reserve
Although he initially underestimated the subprime shock, many economists believe his leadership helped avert a second Great Depression. But bailing out Bear Stearns and AIG amplified the problem of moral hazard, while the rescue of Wall Street infuriated the public and led Congress to develop proposals to curb its powers.
33 Alan Greenspan Former chairman, US Federal Reserve
A legend on stepping down in 2006 after 18½ years, his stock crashed with the onset of the economic crisis in 2007. Blamed, perhaps unfairly, for keeping interest rates too low too long and fuelling a series of bubbles, he conceded he “made a mistake” in relying too much on market discipline.
34 Liu Mingkang Chairman, China Banking Regulatory Commission
Instrumental in restoring the health of the country’s banks – many of which were technically insolvent at the start of the decade – underpinning another decade of rapid economic growth.Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is now the world’s largest in terms of market capitalisation.
35 Nouriel Roubini Chairman, RGE Monitor Known as Dr Doom, he was warning that the global economy was heading for a fall as early as the middle years of the decade. Initially concerned that the US trade deficit would lead to a dollar collapse, he also spotted the subprime mortgage market was tottering – although in 2007-08, he offered predictions rosier than the outcomes.
36 Jean-Claude Trichet President, European Central Bank
The ECB was the first big central bank to react to the financial storms that erupted in August 2007, helping avert a Lehman Brothers-style disaster in Europe and turning the eurozone into a haven of stability for members. As such, the former French bureaucrat has significantly driven forward economic integration.
37 Maria Bartiromo Financial journalist, CNBC
The CNBC anchor has made the transition to the inner circle of the global business elite. The “Money Honey” symbolises the popularisation of financial news, earning her the accolade of a Joey Ramone song: “I watch you on the television every single day. Those eyes make everything okay.”
38 Richard Dawkins Scientist and writer
The British academic known as “Darwin’s Rottweiler” vigorously defends his rationalist world view against attack from creationists through books such as the 2006 bestseller, The God Delusion .His Foundation for Reason and Science re-searches the psychology of religious belief.
39 Melinda Gates Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Where her husband, co-founder of Microsoft, brings a passion for science to the world’s largest philanthropic foundation, she provides compassion and ability to influence, boosting the role of the foundation, which last year gave $2.8bn to health, development, education and community causes.
40 John de Mol Developer of Big Brother TV format
Gave birth to a genre that has dominated global TV for a decade. The show leaves UK screens next year but Mr de Mol has promised to produce one more blockbuster format “before I die”. Investors will be keen; audiences may be more ambivalent.
41 Damien Hirst Artist
The greatest skill of the bad boy of British art lies in playing the market. On the evening Lehman Brothers collapsed he took his latest work directly to Sotheby’s, cutting out the middle-man, and sold £111m worth. It was a better world, he said, when people “would rather put their money into butterflies than banks”.
42 Arianna Huffington Co-founder, The Huffington Post
Has turned the free-to-read news site into one of the web’s most popular destinations – though she dec-lines to say whether it is profitable. After a political conversion, she became a vocal critic of George W. Bush and a big supporter of Barack Obama’s campaign for the US presidency.
43 Beyoncé and Jay-Z Recording artists and music tycoons
With a joint net worth of $265m, the couple has been key in making hip-hop and R&B global cultural phenomena. He claims to have the US president on speed-dial; her rendition of “At Last” for Michelle and Barack Obama’s first dance on inauguration night seemed to encapsulate the mood of millions of voters and the culmination of a political movement.
44 Hayao Miyazaki Filmmaker
Revolutionised animated filmmaking, creating works of a depth and poignancy that have transcended Japanese culture to win worldwide recognition. His Spirited Away , about pollution and moral bankruptcy and set in a hot spring run by spirits, won the best animated feature Oscar in 2002.
45 Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani Al-Jazeera founder
As backer of the Arab world’s most popular news channel, the Qatari prime minister has introduced free debate into a region dominated by state broadcasts and offered a non-western view of global events.
46 JK Rowling Author
On the publication of instalments in her Harry Potter series, fans worldwide queue to get their hands on the latest. The author, said to be worth more than £560m after global sales in excess of 400m copies and blockbuster film versions by Warner Bros, says she will not add to the set.
47 Craig Venter Biologist
Known as “Darth Venter” for the erroneous belief he wanted to patent the human genome, he led the private-sector effort to decode human DNA, which ended in a dead heat with the public sector effort in 2000. His best known project is an attempt to build a living micro-organism from scratch.
48 Oprah Winfrey Media mogul
The most influential figure in US broadcasting thanks to her confessional style of TV and ability to score the most highly sought interviews. As audiences fragment, her showremains a “must-watch” for her huge and loyal fan base. In politics, she played a central role in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
49 Tiger Woods Golfer
His phenomenal record made him the world’s richest and most recognised sports star. Sponsors were transfixed by the narrative of a young black man conquering a white-dominated game. Though his image has been tarnished, few would bet against him remaining top dog for years to come if and when he returns to the tour. Whether he can maintain the same sponsorship levels is doubtful.
50 Mark Zuckerberg Founder, Facebook
The Harvard wunderkind ushered social networkinginto the mainstream, setting up the world’s largest social network, although lax privacy and security have become a problem for the site. The 25-year-oldis one of the world’s youngest billionaires.
Reporting by: Peter Aspden, Ralph Atkins, Justin Baer, Bertrand Benoit, Jon-athan Birchall, James Blitz, Roger Blitz, Clive Cookson, Mure Dickie, Geoff Dyer, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, Ben Fenton, Matthew Garrahan, David Gel– les, Chris Giles, Francesco Guerrera, Krishna Guha, Kathrin Hille, An-drew Jack, Johanna Kassel, Roula Kha-laf, James Lamont, Edward Luce, Peter Marsh, Joseph Menn, Joseph Mil-ton, Josh Noble, George Parker, David Pilling, Stefan Wagstyl, William Wallis, Richard Waters, Jonathan Wheatley
Not just heroes and villains
In a decade that opened with the devastating events of September 11 and closed with the world having survived the prospect of economic collapse, the Financial Times list of the 50 people who shaped the past 10 years forms a very diverse group. Not all are heroes, some are villains and many fall somewhere in between.
All such lists are subjective and somewhat arbitrary, but we have tried to capture individuals who have had a powerful impact on the world or their region – for good or bad – in four areas: politics, business, economics and culture.
It was not an easy task. We could easily have included 50 people from each category. So the men and women on our list should be seen as representative of the larger themes of the decade. There are some striking omissions where we felt that a historic event or trend had been captured by someone already on our list. Why no Saddam Hussein? Surely Iraq, and the overthrow of its ruler, has been one of the stories of the decade? Ultimately, we felt that the Iraq war was encapsulated by the two western politicians who did most to create it: George W. Bush and Tony Blair.
Some of our choices may not be familiar all over the world but they will have had an important effect on their region or particular industry. In the cultural category, we have focused on those who have had a profound influence on a large number of people rather than making judgments about the instrinsic artistic merit of their work.
We recognise that the 50 faces on this list are a jumping-off point for debate. Who did we miss? Who should not have made the cut? Who will shape the next decade? Join the debate on ft.com.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009.