As we bid adieu to another year--not to mention a decade, century, and millennium--executives around the world have plenty of reasons to uncork the bubbly. At the end of 1999, much of the global economy remains robust, stock markets continue to defy both gravity and logic, and ''e'' and ''dot.com'' have become industries unto themselves. Clearly, the business world is doing something very right.
Yet leaving the booming economy aside, there's a group of executives who deserve to raise their champagne flutes a bit higher than the rest. BUSINESS WEEK's 25 Top Managers of 1999 pushed their companies--and often their stock prices--to new highs. Some stood out by making smart decisions at lightning speed. Others were more patient, relentlessly pursuing a crucial deal or taking the time to right a once-sinking ship. In a year marked by hype, these execs' accomplishments were legit.
It was the year the Internet went mainstream. So it's no surprise that many of BUSINESS WEEK's Top Managers came from the world of high technology or telecommunications. Cisco Systems (CSCO) President and Chief Executive John Chambers pulled further ahead in the networking-equipment business by courting customers and buying companies with key technology he didn't already own. Others, such as NTT DoCoMo President Keiji Tachikawa, capitalized on the convergence of telecommunications and the Net by launching an Internet service for mobile phones that has been a huge hit.
Consolidators of fragmented or mature industries also fared well in 1999. Rather than facing competition alone, many decided they could accomplish more as a team. CBS (CBS) President and CEO Mel Karmazin worked out a $80 billion buyout by Viacom (VIA.B), and MCI WorldCom (WCOM) President and CEO Bernie Ebbers won a hot bidding war for Sprint (FON). Yet partnering didn't always mean a change in ownership: T.K. Koogle, CEO and chairman of Yahoo! (YHOO), is in the enviable position of being the gatekeeper of a site any dot.com would kill to be associated with.
Technology wasn't the only route to the top. Media maven Martha Stewart scored with an October initial public offering that crowned her queen of home and hearth. And while parents on budgets rue the day that Nintendo of America (NTDOY) President Minoru Arakawa gave the green light to the infamous Pokemon, any kid will tell you that it was one of 1999's smartest moves.
For some of this year's high achievers, success was all the sweeter for following many bitter years. Texaco (TX) CEO Peter Bijur fought back from a racial discrimination scandal by revamping his company's culture and improving minority hiring. And President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Curvey helped Fidelity Investments recover from a rash of staff departures. This year, Fidelity also overtook archrival Charles Schwab (SCH) to become the largest provider of online brokerage accounts.
To choose the year's 25 Top Managers, BUSINESS WEEK surveyed our staff of 149 writers and editors in 25 bureaus around the world. Then we pared the list by making sure each candidate's financial and stock performance outclassed the field. The result? A solid group of winners--all of whom deserve a toast.