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Who were the business superstars of the 1970s?

Last month, we said:

Who are today’s heroes? Not writers or even musicians? No, our pantheon of culture heroes are: rich men, athletes, some movie and TV stars, a few politicians, some offbeat intellectuals like Nate Silver and Nassim Taleb . . .

I guess I should also add social media stars like whoever is getting a million youtube subscribers or twitter followers or whatever.

In many of these categories, you can map back to similar groups of heroes from fifty years ago. Now we have Bernie Sanders, then we had Ronald Reagan. Now we have Tucker Carlson, then we had William F. Buckley. Now LeBron James, then Billie Jean King. Rod Carew has passed on the mantle to Mike Trout, Clint Eastwood has given way to Tom Hanks. Etc.

Two areas where I see a lack of parallelism are music and business.

Back in the 1970s there must have been over 100 major rock stars, each with his or her own distinctive image: just compare Elton John, David Bowie, Gene Simmons, and so forth. Nowadays there are some very popular musicians, but I don’t think they have the same role in society (and, no, I don’t think it’s just that I’m older now myself). Now, music is just music; it doesn’t represent such a large chunk of the culture.

The other difference is that now we have business heroes. It started with Steve Jobs, maybe. Then there was Bill Gates—I remember the enjoyment that people used to show, back in the 90s, just talking about how rich he was. And now there’s whole menagerie of rich people to choose from, including the richest (Gates, Bezos, etc.), the offbeat (Musk, Branson, etc.), Oprah, . . . take your pick.

But back in the 1970s we did not have a class of people who were business heroes. There were occasional famous businessmen, but they did not form a category.

Who were the business superstars of that era? There was Ted Turner. There was Lee Iacocca. And . . . is that it? There must be a few more that I’m forgetting. But not a whole category of them. Steve Jobs and the guy who founded Atari were around in the 70s, but I don’t think they’d reached hero status yet.

71 Comments

  1. Steven Reilly says:

    Would Felix Rohatyn count? The popular version of the story is that Gerald Ford told New York City to drop dead, and Rohatyn saved the day with his financial genius. No doubt the real story’s more complicated and more boring, but he might have reached superstar status.

  2. jim says:

    There were few business stars from the 70s because American business was in decline. The automakers peaked in the 1960s, steel was declining, Japanese imports were rising, aerospace was at a standstill with the end of Apollo and the end of the Viet Nam war (less need for B52s).

    The last period of major business stardom was the 1880s-1920s, with Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, Sears, Penney etc.

    Music is definitely not as popular in the US these days but lots going on outside the US.

  3. Nick Nolan says:

    In the US 70’s was pretty much oil and car companies + IBM, GE, Boeing and Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas https://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500_archive/full/1970/

    Samuel Walton (Walmart)

    Akio Morita (Sony) founded Sony Corporation of America in 1960.

    • Andrew says:

      Nick:

      When I say “superstars,” I’m talking about people, not organizations. Thus Jobs, not Apple. Sony was famous in the 70s, but not Morita so much. One good example from Daxx’s comment below is the Hunt brothers. They were famous and distinctive.

  4. Daxx says:

    There were lots of them, in no particular order:
    – Peter Drucker
    – Paul Samuelson
    – Lee Yuan Kew
    – Milton Friedman
    – Robert Moses
    – J. Paul Getty
    – The Duponts
    – The Rockefellers
    – The Hunts
    – Mahammad Reza Pahlevi
    – Muammar Gaddafi
    – Rand Corp
    – Bell Labs
    To name a few…

    • Andrew says:

      Daxx:

      Of all of these, the only ones I’d consider business superstars are Getty and the Hunts. The others on your list were in academia or government, not business. I guess Drucker was in business, but I wouldn’t call him a superstar.

      • Daxx says:

        Andrew-
        We can always agree to disagree. The academics, Rand Corp and Bell Labs were fundamental in shaping the business climate of the 70s. Would you have included Michael Porter whose books on strategy, the veritable bible of 20th c strategy, began their run in the 70s? Ignoring Lee Yuan Kew is probably the most egregious mistake as he, pretty much singlehandedly, created the model for the autocratic Asian Tiger economies that was copied by the Chinese when they began opening up under Deng Xiao Peng in the 80s.

        • Andrew says:

          Daxx:

          I agree that these organizations were important and influential in shaping the business climate. That’s just not the question I was asking. I was asking about businessmen who were pop-culture heroes in the sense of Zuck, Musk, etc., today.

          • Daxx says:

            It looks like your focus is almost entirely on American business, otherwise you would give Lee Yuan Kew the props he’s due.

            • Andrew says:

              Daxx:

              Lee Kuan Yew was an important guy who had a big impact on business practices. He was not himself a businessman—he was a politician. We could talk about rock-star politicians, but that would be another topic.

              • Daxx says:

                To pigeonhole him as ‘just’ a politician doesn’t do justice to his accomplishments, legacy and reputation. As wiki puts it, ‘Lee is recognized as the nation’s (Singapore) founding father, credited with rapidly transitioning the country from a “developing third world country into a developed first world country within a single generation.”‘ Yes, he was a politician but also a first class intellect with an outstanding business acumen. In my book, he’s a multi-threat rock star.

  5. Mel says:

    —“our pantheon of culture heroes are: …”

    And who does the actual bean count of “our” heroes?

    A Pantheon is a temple to the gods — Hero-Worship and religion are much the same basic impulse.

    The Hero Meme is a popular superfluous aspect of human culture, but far from universal or beneficial.

    In America, ‘Heroes’ are created at the whims & winds of the media.
    Even in the narrower news-media the Hero theme is constantly pushed.

    Designation of heroes is always a matter of arbitrary fashion from an influential minority of the population.

  6. hmmm says:

    There are many major musician superstars right now, they just don’t look the same as they did in the 70s. What about Drake? Future? Rihanna? Kanye West? Travis Scott? These people are already considered some of the most influential/popular artists in modern history, and they’re still working; in modern music more generally (aka digital sales and streaming), they are off the charts in terms of sales, popularity, and influence. These people sell albums, produce TV shows, own their own fashion lines, etc. You know why they don’t seem as popular to the NYTimes/NPR white crowd? They’re black, & lots of middle-aged white people still don’t accept hip hop, even though it is globally the most influential/popular style of music that exists in modern memory; it also happens to be an industry with majority black performers.

    • Andrew says:

      Hmmm:

      There were popular black musicians in the 70s too! Stevie Wonder, Kool and the Gang, etc., not to mention jazz and all the rest. As I wrote above, there are some very popular musicians, but not as many. There were something like 100 major rock stars in the 70s; I don’t think there are as many major pop music stars right now. I just think they’re inhabiting a smaller universe. The superstars today are still superstars—Drake is as big as Elton John ever was—but I think the bench is thinner. I’m not talking about quality here; I’m talking about presence in popular culture. Back in the 70s, music and TV were the biggest things going. Now there are other media. And literature has mostly disappeared. Again, the quality is as high as ever, but it’s living in a narrower frequency spectrum, as it were.

      • hmmm says:

        Yeah, that’s fair actually. Though, I’d argue that the treatment of such musicians Kool & Stevie included, was pretty awful at the time, especially in terms of awards, etc; it also took white people many decades to become comfortable with jazz music. I disagree with your characterization of the bench being thinner, I think the issue is actually the opposite; music is so widespread, substantially easier to make (i.e., people can make #1 hit songs using ~$300 worth of gear) without record labels, and being propagated via social media. But, perhaps that’s part of your point about the smaller universe? There is less direct ‘pop culture’ coverage of a small subset of musicians to focus all of our attention on for multiple years; things change faster now & cultural memory is brief (Drake, Kanye West, etc. being the exception to that, though, they are far more influential even than most 70s/80s black musicians). I think something similar is probably true for a lot of literature; I’d argue that there’s quite a bit of literature that is thriving in terms of literally anyone being able to create their own following and publish things online without the gatekeeping of publication houses. it’s just isn’t that we’re focused on a few big names anymore. It is the institutions that are eroding, not the art itself.

        • Andrew says:

          Hmmm:

          When I say the bench is thinner, I’m talking about penetration into general pop culture, not about the quality of the music.

          • Someone else says:

            What could “penetration into general pop culture” mean other than “I (and my friends) have heard of them”? In which case your age has to be the primary reason…

            I doubt that people your current age were tuned into Gene Simmons back in the 70s. I’m a millennial and I don’t know who Gene Simmons is. For my generation, Kanye West is much more famous and influential than The Beatles. And there is already a full generation of extraordinarily influential artists younger than me who I only learned the names of *because* they died (like Juice Wrld, Xxxtentacion). Juice Wrld’s song “Righteous”, which I still haven’t heard and only know because I looked it up just now, has more views than The Beatles’ “Let It Be” on youtube…

            It’d take some serious argument for me to believe that age isn’t the reason for your perception of the role of music in society post-1970s!

            • Andrew says:

              Someone:

              I agree that there are some mega-popular musicians right now. But, as I wrote above, I think the bench was deeper in the 1970s. Not in terms of quality but in terms of stardom. Back then, there were lots and lots of rock stars, and very few famous businessmen. Now there’s a whole category of business stars, and just a few music stars.

              • Someone else (the same someone else) says:

                (I regret my choice of username.)

                I still don’t see it. In terms of businesspeople, we (and now I’m speaking as a millennial, as I really do think this idea of ‘penetration’ depends almost entirely upon demographic category) would probably admit Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Jobs, although all three of these have been rapidly losing social capital in the 2020s. That’s… three people? Whereas we all have literally gigabytes worth of relevant musicians in our Spotify playlists.

                Is Oprah a business superstar? I guess, but she’s better known as a talk-show host, and not a talk-show that my generation grew up watching. How about Branson? I don’t hear anyone talking about him. Bezos? No way–people don’t idolize him as a business man. He’s well-known for being rich and for being an asshole who exploits millions of workers and almost single-handedly destroyed thousands of beloved brick-and-mortar businesses. I think there’s a huge difference between a “rich businessman” and a “business superstar.” A lot of millennials grew up wanting to be like Zuckerberg, who is undoubtedly a business superstar. No one grew up wanting to be like Bezos.

    • I don’t know. Jazz in the late 50’s through the 60’s was a majority black musical art form, and if you go watch Jazz On a Summer’s Day (a documentary on the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival) you’ll see crowds of white fans, many of whom were probably “the NPR crowd” of their day.

      Is the current hip-hop music not popular among the NPR crowd because it’s full of black artists? Maybe…

      If you go to rolling stone’s list of 100 top hip hop songs: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/100-greatest-hip-hop-songs-of-all-time-105784/outkast-b-o-b-3-116453/

      Look at the top say 6… The Message, Rappers Delight, Planet Rock, Sucker MCs, Mind Playing Tricks On Me, Nuthin but a G Thang

      The message lyrics: “Broken glass everywhere
      People pissing on the stairs, you know they just don’t care
      I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise
      Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
      Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
      Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat
      I tried to get away, but I couldn’t get far
      ‘Cause a man with a tow truck repossessed my car”

      Rappers delight lyrics: “Check it out, I’m the C-A-S-AN, the O-V-A and the rest is F-L-Y
      You see, I go by the code of the doctor of the mix and these reasons I’ll tell you why
      You see I’m six foot one and I’m tons of fun and I dress to a tee
      You see I got more clothes than Muhammad Ali and I dress so viciously
      I got bodyguards, I got two big cars, that definitely ain’t the whack
      I got a Lincoln continental and a sunroof Cadillac
      So after school, I take a dip in the pool, which is really on the wall
      I got a color TV so I can see the Knicks play basketball
      Hear me talking ’bout checkbooks, credit cards, more money than a sucker could ever spend
      But I wouldn’t give a sucker or a bum from the Rucker, not a dime ’til I made it again

      Planet rock: “Party people
      Party people
      Can y’all get funky?
      Soul Sonic Force – can y’ll get funky?
      The Zulu Nation – can y’ll get funky?
      Yaaah!
      Just hit me
      Just taste the funk and hit me
      Just get on down and hit me
      Bambaataa’s gettin’ so funky, now, hit me
      Yaaah!
      Just hit me”

      Sucker MCs: “I got a big long Caddy not like a Seville
      And written right on the side it reads ‘Dressed to Kill’
      So if you see me cruisin girls just a-move or step aside
      There ain’t enough room to fit you all in my ride
      It’s on a, ah first come, first serve basis
      Coolin out girl, take you to the def places
      One of a kind and for your people’s delight
      And for you sucker MC, you just ain’t right
      Because you’re bitin all your life, you’re cheatin on your wife
      You’re walkin round town like a hoodlum with a knife
      You’re hangin on the ave, chillin with the crew
      And everybody know what you’ve been through”

      …. etc

      I just think this doesn’t particularly speak to the NPR crew. It’s not about their life experience or interests.

      Compare to 1959, the single biggest Jazz album ever released: Kind of Blue. It’s lyrics free, it speaks to a huge range of people through harmonic complexity, a mellow mood, and tremendous instrumental skill… It’s also music made almost entirely by black people (Bill Evans being the only exception).

      IMHO the disconnect between the NPR crew and modern hip-hop music is specifically because black artists today are making music targeted at the black experience in the US, and that the black experience in the US especially starting about 1982 or so with the ramp up in the war on drugs… diverged radically from middle class white experience in terms of violence, gangs, drug trade, family experiences, etc

    • Anonymous says:

      hmmmm:

      HH is very popular. From the skin color standpoint it’s certainly popular with younger whites world wide.

      I am a middle-aged white American and I don’t like HH. You’re right that it doesn’t speak to my experience at all. But it’s not just modern hip-hop that doesn’t speak to my experience; it’s the roots of hop-hop in violent rap that turned me off to that vein of music a long time ago. I remember being in a record store with my girlfriend once in the 90s and the rap lyrics were so offensive that I left the store. I listen to a lot of other music that talks about the low side of life but a lot of early rap was way outside what I can stomach.

      Is “blackness” a factor in me rejecting hip hop? No. I listen to jazz and blues all the time. I count among my favorite artists black musicians from Victor Wooten to Lady Smith Black Mombazzo. I’m digging the “Playing for Change” vid series on U2B. I count friendly black acquaintances from all over the world, from atheists to devout Muslims. I don’t care about people’s skin color, creed or gender, whatever. Live and let live. This perspective and experience is widely held among my generation. So to whatever extent ‘middle aged white people’ aren’t hip to hip hop, ‘blackness’ mostly isn’t the relevant factor.

      Middle class Americans of my generation have mostly turned to modern country music, which is sort of a weird blend between older country and southern rock. Lots of songs about drinkin’ and grandparents and the flag and ex girlfriends with a light counter-culture blend of Greatful Dead.

  7. Jonathan (another one) says:

    Getty and the Hunts? Not really. What they were really known for was being rich, not being businessmen. To be a business superstar, I assume you have to be both rich (otherwise you’d never be really known) and known for business acumen. Iacocca is the interesting counterexample, since he was never really super-rich. But Turner, sure. Maybe David Rockefeller. Henry Ford II. Ray Kroc. Michael Milken, but not until the early ’80s. Warren Buffett as well, starting a little later than the ’70s. Sam Walton is a little later as well.

    • Jonathan (another one) says:

      One more: John DeLorean.

      • Daxx says:

        The Hunts cornered the silver market in the 70s…locked it up until it blew them up. They were on the front page of the NYTs Business section week after week. In that sense they were the businessmen’s businessmen. As for Getty, he was the single richest person in the world in those days, year after year.

        And let’s not forget the Saudi oil barons who founded OPEC. It crippled Western economies for years.

  8. Ben says:

    > Now we have Bernie Sanders, then we had Ronald Reagan

    Jeez man, why are you taking shots at Bernie like that? Not nice. The more obvious comparison is Reagan/Trump right?

    • Andrew says:

      Ben:

      I think the best comparison to Trump is not Reagan but Joe McCarthy.

      • Trump seems like a lobotomized Richard Nixon to me.

        • Ben says:

          Thinking about the last response, I think the unresolved thing in my head is:

          1. How much are these dudes uniquely themselves
          2. How much are they a product of their surroundings

          Like, I want to say Bernie is fundamentally different from Trump and Reagan because president > senator in terms of ability to enact ideas.

          But on paper McCarthy was a senator too.

          So was it:

          1. McCarthy had lots of secret power to force his uniquely bad vision of the world onto American politics
          2. Lots of people basically agreed with McCarthy and so they happily went along with him for a while until it became convenient to scapegoat him
          3. McCarthy had so much public support that everyone was forced to go along with him until they were able to bring actual charges against him

          So Bernie is a senator, and he was very popular, but it looks like the #3 strategy didn’t pan out this time. Was McCarthy a #1, #2, or #3 or something else?

      • Ben says:

        Well the question was Bernie really. Like, we knocked our doors, but Bernie didn’t win! That’s got to count. Like, 50 years from now will Bernie even be remembered? Reagan has certainly lasted. I dunno if mostly good Twitter takes, A++ ActBlue game, and senator from Vermont really put you in the history books in the same way.

        What you say in the McCarthy comparison rung a bell:

        > There are differences, the biggest being, I think, that McCarthy had a lot of political power while Trump has none.

        The winds changed on that one lol.

        But I don’t really mean to argue — I am curious why the Bernie/Reagan comparison. It’s very not-obvious to me.

  9. Daxx says:

    Harold Geneen created the first megaconglomerate with ITT Inc.
    Charles Bluhdorn followed him with Gulf & Western. His purchase of the Paramount Building on Columbus Circle, now the Trump International Hotel, was his crib.

    • Ben says:

      Didn’t know who Harold Geneen was. Went to Wikipedia:

      > Declassified documents released by the CIA in 2000 reveal that ITT financially helped opponents of Salvador Allende’s government prepare a military coup.

      Man, can’t just have an innocent ol’ megaconglomerate

  10. Ben says:

    Oh yeah, is there a 50 year ago comparison point for political internet memes?

  11. Carlos Ungil says:

    Howard Hughes
    Thomas Watson Jr.
    Hugh Hefner

  12. Russell W says:

    I’m young, but I think it depends how you define business person. My natural response is Milton Friedman, but not sure if he counts.

    • Andrew says:

      Russell,

      No, I would not count Friedman as a celebrity businessman, any more than I would count Krugman or Pinker or Carl Sagan as celebrity businessmen. They’re celebrity academics, which is a different category.

  13. JJ says:

    Back in the 1970s there must have been over 100 major rock stars, each with his or her own distinctive image: just compare Elton John, David Bowie, Gene Simmons, and so forth. Nowadays there are some very popular musicians, but I don’t think they have the same role in society (and, no, I don’t think it’s just that I’m older now myself). Now, music is just music; it doesn’t represent such a large chunk of the culture.

    I was but a child in the 70s so I can’t say much about the entirety of this paragraph, but I would dispute the bolded bit. Musicians like Beyonce and Taylor Swift have VERY loyal followings, near cult-like status, so much so that they are called the Beyhive (with Beyonce as Queen Bey) and Swifties. Maybe some of the online enthusiasm is paid astroturf, but I think much of it is organic. I’d also add that so many entertainers are now business moguls themselves; they have fashion lines, lifestyle websites, real estate, streaming services, production companies. Maybe someone better versed with the history can school me on this, but I don’t think the rock stars of the 70s did the same. They may be fabulously wealthy now, but they didn’t behave like the C-suite. If anything, I’d argue that music was music more then than now.

    • Carlos Ungil says:

      I don’t know about the 70’s but in the 80’s you had Michael Jackson. David Bowie is also considered a successful businessman.

      • JJ says:

        80s was the transition for sure. Jackson doing Pepsi, Madonna Coke (or was it Diet Coke?). And, for sure, we can come up with examples from the 70s, but we’d have to do the opposite (name musicians who aren’t also business leaders) for today’s musicians.

        • Carlos Ungil says:

          I mostly agree, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that most musicians nowadays are business leaders.

          Anyway, if music seem less present in popular culture I guess it’s due to segmentation (the same is true for television). Also, there is the getting older bit: it’s telling that his choice of current cinema superstar is Hanks who turns 64 next week. Eastwood is only 90, he was in his forties in the 70’s. Even Di Caprio is old by that standard.

  14. gec says:

    What about Coco Chanel?

    Pre-70’s, technically, but her fame certainly extended into (and past) that period.

  15. Jonathan says:

    Concur with a separate opinion. The cult of the entrepreneur revived in the 80’s, so I agree with you there. The rock era ended and was not replaced by a single mainstream form. The internet has helped with that because streaming, in conjunction with social media, enables niche markets to develop more of their potential. So, I feel you are technically correct because the rock era is over, but I think the spirit of the issue has changed.

  16. DSG says:

    Henry Singleton of Teledyne… a darling in the press and Buffett’s business hero

  17. Chetan says:

    Andrew,
    As an amateur business historian, I find this thread fascinating.

    What I think what you’re running up against are multiple issues:

    1) At the level of firms, there is significant survivorship bias in business. This has amplified in recent years as the life span of firms has decreased (attrition both due to failure and M & A).

    2) At the level of entrepreneurs, imo what #1 implies is that over time, since smaller and smaller number of companies survive there is simply no recollection/ cataloging of the non-surviving firms and their founders. Steve Jobs is a classic example. Would he be remembered today if Apple had gone bankrupt in 1997 as it was about to before Jobs second innings and Gates investment?

    This is a much bigger issue than people realize. Think about the dot com bubble which ended on March 10, 2000. How many people remember the founders of the companies that didn’t make it (mp3.com anyone?)

    3) To really see which entrepreneurs and business leaders were “popular” in the 1970s or other eras, you would need to do some sleuthing and look at cultural traces in business and popular magazines of that era. Unfortunately this is not easy since not all of the old material has been digitized.

    Now back to answer your question, one name (aside from the more obvious ones already mentioned) that jumps at me (from my collection of old magazines) is James Ling (of Ling-Temco-Vought), one of the key figures of the conglomerate boom of the 1970s. Here’s his NYT obituary: https://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/26/business/james-j-ling-who-built-conglomerates-dies-at-81.html

  18. Thanatos Savehn says:

    As a late-70s high school burger flipper from a Midwestern college town I’d argue that it was the golden age of the franchisors and franchisees; the age of those who standardized the customer experience across regions. Those franchisees who were successful became pillars of their communities and the franchisor CEOs were like superstars. About the same time, and although not a franchise operation, Sam Walton was working with realtors (who still own the land on which they sit and collect sweet rents) and some local former Army logistics people to spread cloned retail experience and pricing across the states.

    My buddy’s dad, a neurosurgeon, started several Kinko’s. Our dentist opened a Wendy’s; his wife opened an H&R Block. The family that opened the Der Wienerschnitzel went bust. The people who started an Arby’s went bust but then tried again and now own six.

    There are little family empires all over the U.S. with new worths in the 8-9 figure range that owe it all to the the great homogenization.

  19. Njnnja says:

    I think you are right about 70’s lack of business heroes. That seemed to have started in the 80’s with guys like Lee Iacocca and (shudder) Donald Trump in the 80’s.

    I think the “pop” heroes changed from musicians in the 70’s to “famous for being famous” Kardashians and other social influencers.

  20. Elon Girb says:

    Did anyone mention Merv Griffin?

  21. Elon Girb says:

    David Geffen.
    George Steinbrenner.

  22. Elon Girb says:

    Jim Goodnight of SAS.

  23. Dale Lehman says:

    I didn’t really read this post and comments until today (COVID boredom, I guess). But it strikes me that the question is ill-defined, and uninteresting as stated. What is a business superstar? might be worth discussing. Does it mean who was famous, who was rich, who influenced business in important ways? Does their influence need to be positive or negative? I suppose the same questions arise if we think of musicians, politicians, or academics.

    Personally, I don’t think fame or success are particularly interesting, as there exist metrics that could fairly easily measure such things. Influential, in terms of breaking new ground or establishing patterns of behavior, seems more worthy of discussion. Then, some of the candidates might have had bad influences as well as good. Perhaps that would be a good segway from the current preoccupation with monuments and statues – I think glorification is a poor idea in all cases. Humans are imperfect and it is healthy to see the totality of their influences, both good and bad. By that measure, Bill Gates certainly must be included, along with Henry Ford, Carnegie, etc. Of the current generation, Elon Musk might well qualify. A more interesting discussion would be of the current generation, who do you think will turn out to be “superstars” like those from the past? Another interesting discussion might be who is on the list that is not a white male (American-centric discussion, however).

    • Ben says:

      > Personally, I don’t think fame or success are particularly interesting

      What if we think about things in terms of replacement level?

      Like, a replacement level CEO at Tesla would arguably make the company better but make less crazy tweets.

      Part of the Jobs-mythos is we kinda have the A/B/A test thing on Apple.

  24. Doug says:

    There’s a passage in Galbraith’s The New Industrial State that says something to the effect that nobody knows the names of the president (what ceos were called back then) of General Motors or other faceless corporate managers, in contrast to the fame of Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie and capitalists of an earlier era. I don’t think this is entirely true (Thomas Watson, Robert McNamara, and Edwin Land are names that come to mind), but ceos and entrepreneurs were not superstars (nor so well compensated).

  25. Michael Nelson says:

    Maybe just in white culture? No judgement, that’s me, too. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit if there’s over a hundred black groups with followings just as fanatic as any from 40 years ago. And just as culturally pervasive, outside my bubble. Also, a lot of musical artists are now famous business mogals, and vice versa.

  26. David J. Littleboy says:

    At the risk of being mistaken for a fan of hers (I’m not, merely a bemused observer): Ayn Rand. (She was doing the college lecture circuit in the late 60s/early 70s, I seem to remember.)

    Rand Paul (or someone else of his ilk) was screaming the other day that if only young people read Ayn Rand, there wouldn’t be so many hippies. He’s quite wrong. She was one of the reasons I really got it that the hippies were right.

    • Andrew says:

      David:

      Rand was a famous cult author, and in some way she could be considered a superstar, in the same way that Philip K. Dick or E. F. Benson were cult favorites. And Rand wrote about business. But she does not fit into the category I’m taking about, as she was not herself a businessperson.

  27. steven t johnson says:

    Louis Rukeyser of Wall Street Week was a pop culture figure and nothing but, and was all about heroizing business. So I think he counts very, very much. (Also, along with Buckley’s Firing Line, living proof public TV/radio was never a nest of lefties.)

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