Described as ebullient and hard-charging, passionate and demanding, Steve Ballmer was promoted to Microsoft Corp. CEO in January while the software giant was in the throes of its federal antitrust suit, demonstrating the trust felt by Chairman-Chief Software Architect Bill Gates. Mr. Ballmer is clearly at the top of his game, responsible for running day-to-day operations and advancing company strategies. He also helped defend Microsoft's right to innovate in high-profile TV commercials that trumpet, "The best is yet to come."
BUSH vs. GORE
It was the race of Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore but the history-making end to the 2000 presidential campaign almost made the campaign itself seem secondary. The ad story played out to unprecedented heavy spending on behalf of both candidates, particularly in targeted states. Where four years ago, the presidential campaigns relied largely on public funding, this time both political parties bankrolled extensive efforts for their presidential candidates. Republicans spent as much as the Bush campaign on ads, while Democrats, who weren't far behind, dropped even the pretense their efforts were developed separately, using the same ad team as the Gore campaign.
Take one first lady who has lived in Illinois, Arkansas and Washington, D.C. Start with a very public involvement in healthcare, mix eight years in the White House and what do you get? Well, one U.S. senator from New York, of course. The decision of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to withdraw from the race because of health concerns may have made Hillary Clinton's bid for the Senate less intriguing, but her unprecedented run for office against U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio still proved interesting. One of the issues turned out to be marketing to children, with Mrs. Clinton attacking marketers for targeting kids. She promised legislation, though details weren't disclosed. In the end, Mrs. Clinton won the election easily and was on the way to Washington where at last report she was looking for an apartment or condo to replace her current accommodation in a large white building at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Brash, charismatic and unwaveringly attention-seeking, 43-year-old Donny Deutsch once again found himself in the public spotlight this month after selling his eponymous New York-based agency to Interpublic Group of Cos. Donny's father, David, had founded the shop in 1969, and it was one of the few remaining independent agencies prior to the deal, which cost Interpublic an estimated $200 million to $250 million in stock. As the 87% owner of the agency, Chairman-CEO Donny Deutsch could end up with a nine-figure payday, though the exact amount will depend on how well the agency and Interpublic perform in the next few years.
This year marked the departure of Phil Guarascio from VP-corporate advertising and marketing of the nation's biggest-spending advertiser, General Motors Corp. He announced his early retirement to a stunned group at a weekly Detroit Adcraft Club luncheon in March after undergoing a triple bypass operation. He had been with GM 15 years and inked high-profile, big-ticket deals like the $1 billion, multiyear sponsorship and broadcast deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee and 37 U.S. teams, and secured GM as the sole auto sponsor of the upstart Women's Basketball Association. But a shadow hung over his departure. GM had initiated a huge audit of Mr. Guarascio's department, said to have been sparked by a scandal involving his once-trusted lieutenant, Dean Rotondo. Mr. Guarascio wasn't suspected of wrongdoing. Mr. Rotondo, promoted by Mr. Guarascio twice-eventually to director of Olympic marketing-violated his 1997 parole after pleading guilty to four counts of fraud over $100, a criminal felony.
"I always knew [A.G. Lafley] would be president someday," Scott Cook, a former Procter & Gamble Co. brand manager who went on to found Intuit, said of the president-CEO of P&G. Mr. Cook echoed many who've watched Mr. Lafley's career at P&G. The only surprise was his ascent in 2000, a good five years ahead of schedule. Mr. Lafley became CEO when Durk Jager retired in June, after the company twice missed Wall Street's earnings expectations and its stock tumbled by more than half from highs for the year. Clearly Mr. Lafley's work is cut out for him, as P&G's sales and market shares sputter. But Mr. Lafley, whose mild-mannered demeanor belies a sharp wit and a disciplined, detail-oriented approach, has had success at every turn in his 25-year P&G career so far.
Last month, Chairman-CEO Robert Johnson announced the sale of BET Holdings to Viacom for $3 billion, triple the value placed on it by Wall Street two years ago. Earlier this year, BET pumped $10 million into advertising to support the relaunch of its Web site. Under Viacom, TV programming is expected to be expanded, and the African-American network will be included in cross-promotional plans with Viacom's TV and radio outlets.
She inhabits the lofty realm of one-name woman celebs-alongside the likes of Martha, Hillary and Madonna-but Oprah Winfrey's stock nonetheless rose measurably from those rarefied heights this year. Exhibit A: the ungainly titled O, the Oprah Magazine, which exploded on the newsstands with a May-June issue so sought after that its sell-through, or percentage of newsstand copies sold, hit unheard of levels above 90%. (The industry average hovers near 40%.)
Linda Wolf, Leo Burnett Worldwide's new chairman-CEO, made headlines when she celebrated the agency's $95 million win for the U.S. Army by leaping from an airplane with an elite unit of the Armed Forces branch. She may become better known for her juggling. Besides running accounts for such giant advertisers as Coca-Cola Co. and McDonald's Corp., the 52-year-old mother of two teen-age sons will step up from her current role as CEO of Leo Burnett USA to be the first woman to run the worldwide agency network. The new-business maven succeeds Roger Haupt, who will now focus on his role as CEO of parent company Bcom3 Group, and Richard Fizdale, who retires from active agency service.
It was the Year of the Tiger. Chalking up what is generally billed as the greatest single-season performance in the history of golf, Tiger Woods, who turns 25 on Dec. 30, became a legend. He flattened PGA Tour scoring records and won three of golf's four major championships. With endorsements totaling about $60 million annually (Nike, Buick and Titleist among them), and with a record $9.18 million in prize money banked in 2000, sports pundits say Mr. Woods is likely to become sport's first billionaire. None too soon, for he's just been fined $100,000 by the Screen Actors Guild for shooting a non-union Buick commercial during SAG's strike against advertisers.