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Cover Story -- The Best Managers
MANAGERS TO WATCH IN 1998
C. Michael Armstrong
Armstrong, 59, is off to a fast start. In just two months as CEO, he has sped up the sale of non-core assets and he's scaled back a big push into local phone markets. With AT&T's long-distance business under siege, he aims to save $4 billion a year by slashing overhead. Since Armstrong arrived, AT&T shares are up about 35%.
Philip M. Condit
What's with Boeing? First, a surprise $1.6 billion loss because it can't boost production fast enough. Then, amid FAA worries that its rapid ramp-up is hurting safety, Boeing says it will cut 12,000 jobs and take another $1 billion write-off in '98. Now CEO Condit, 56, must clean up the mess.
After media mogul Rupert Murdoch put her in charge of HarperCollins Publishers, Disney shocked the industry by canceling more than 100 book contracts. Will that be enough? So far the house remains troubled, but Disney's star hasn't dimmed: In September, Murdoch added TV Guide and digital publishing to her watch.
M. Douglas Ivester
Can new CEO Ivester keep Coca-Cola bubbling? The hand-picked successor to recently deceased Roberto C. Goizueta, Ivester is a tough competitor and financial whiz. He just inked a $840 million Orangina deal, but with foreign earnings growth likely to slow and Pepsi itching to relaunch the cola wars, challenges await.
George M.C. Fisher
After a sorry '97, the 57-year-old CEO faces another daunting year. He cut 16,600 employees and lost a major international trade case against Japan last year, even as earnings sank. Now Fisher must stop rival Fuji's advances in the U.S. and turn a profit in his lagging digital photography unit.
Edward C. Crutchfield Jr.
In a decade at the top of First Union, Crutchfield, 46, has inked 75 deals and built the bank into a $157 billion goliath. But he paid a hefty price for his $16.6 billion buyout of CoreStates Financial last year, the biggest bank deal ever. Having created a franchise from New England to Florida, in '98 he must get it working smoothly.
For Softbank founder Son, the staggering debt load brought on by his two-year, $4.5 billion buying spree means that '98 could be an ugly year. The stock has dropped about 65% in '97, and Son, 40, may be forced to sell a minority stake of his prized Ziff-Davis Publishing to U.S. investors to raise cash.
Steven P. Jobs
Whether he remains CEO or not, Jobs will likely be working overtime to resuscitate Apple. He'll also try to recreate Toy Story magic in 1998 with a new release from his Pixar Animation Studios.
Dr. Thomas F. Frist Jr.
In '98, CEO Frist will face the greatest test of his three-decade career. He regained the troubled hospital chain's helm in '97, in the midst of a federal investigation of its billing practices. Now, Frist, 59, must remake the company and negotiate a settlement with the Justice Dept.
Does Diller, 55, creator of the Fox TV network, still have the programming touch? After buying Universal Studio's TV unit and the USA cable network, he's trying to build another national network. His first shows air this spring.
One of the top-ranking black women in Corporate America, Roche left Avon to become president of tiny Carson. It has been tough going at the $110-million maker of personal-care products for African-Americans. A marketing ace at Avon, Roche, 50, must now reverse soft sales and a 50% drop in Carson's stock price.
Charles R. Lee
CEO Lee made a bold move with his 11th-hour $28 billion bid for long-distance giant MCI. But he was outbid by upstart WorldCom. Now, if Lee can't line up another major acquisition, GTE could lose its status as a major telecom player, and risks getting gobbled up itself.
Richard K. Davidson
One year into his new job, CEO Davidson is at the controls of a stalled company. He must contend with massive congestion following UP's bungled merger with Southern Pacific Rail. And as the financial toll mounts, Davidson, 55, must prove he can win back irate customers and appease regulators.
Will Hazen, 56, put Wells Fargo on the block? He paid a pricey $11.3 billion for First Interstate in '96, but investors question if the merger is working. With angry customers fleeing and the stock lagging far behind rivals, Hazen recently hinted he might sell.
Lee Kun Hee
Running the giant chaebol won't be easy in '98 for its 55-year-old chairman. Falling chip prices have hurt his core electronics business, and although Lee is cutting investment, Samsung is likely to go into the red. Its debt load, plus Korea's volatile currency, could deepen losses.
Stephen F. Wiggins
OXFORD HEALTH PLANS
In '97, CEO Wiggins went from managed care golden boy to Wall Street whipping boy. Big third-quarter losses and billing snafus sent shares down 80%. Now Wiggins, 41, must restore the company to health.
John F. Antioco
Since Viacom paid $8.4 billion for Blockbuster Entertainment Group in '94, a sharp drop in earnings has sent its value plummeting 75%. Now Antioco, 48, the video chain's third CEO under Viacom, must overcome intense competition from cable and satellite services if he's to write Blockbuster's happy ending.
Sir Richard B. Sykes
Sykes, 55, needs to overcome some tough setbacks. Last year, U.S. patents expired on two top-selling drugs, and his planned successor abruptly quit. Yet he vows sales--which dropped 3% in '97--will grow in double digits by '99, thanks to some new offerings.
Lawrence J. Ellison
In the wake of disappointing earnings, CEO Ellison, 53, watched Oracle's stock plunge 29% in a single December day. Investor fears over its core database software business--under growing threat from Microsoft--are upping pressures to find new growth. Ellison also must fix a rocky sales force reorganization.
Jack M. Greenberg
Despite the hamburger chain's recent shakeup, U.S. performance remains weak. Earnings are expected to be slightly down for '97, a 10% drop from '95. First priorities for the 55-year-old CEO: Speed up the service and spruce up the restaurants.