Black Enterprise’s 100 Most Powerful Executives Honored

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More than 150 gathered at the New York Stock Exchange last night to honor the business elite: Black Enterprise’s 100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America.

Published in the magazine’s September issue, the listing shines a bright spotlight on the achievements of African American business leaders who have risen to the highest-ranking corporate positions and hold revenue-generating and operating responsibilities critical to, among other areas,  product development, sales and supply chain management at some of the world’s largest publicly-traded companies.

“We know that only the best and brightest can excel in the C-suites of the nation’s largest corporations, and that highlighting the achievements of African American executives who not only set, but are raising the bar of excellence, will inspire others, including younger African Americans, to aspire and dream to be you, just as you were once inspired to pursue your career paths.” said Black Enterprise CEO Earl “Butch” Graves, Jr., sharing the significance of the list and importance of the recognition ceremony.

Representatives from the list who impact global business and serve as innovators in an array of industries were recognized at the ceremony. These notables included David P. Bozeman, who operates equipment manufacturer Caterpillar’s largest division as vice president of its Integrated Manufacturing Operations; Derek Lewis, SVP and general manager of PepsiCo North American Field Operations and leader of a team that generated more than $15 billion in sales last year; Matt Carter, president of Sprint Global Wholesale and Emerging Solutions’ business unit that has unveiled fourth-generation broadband wireless services; Lisa Jeffries Caldwell, EVP & chief human resources officer for Reynolds American Inc., the second largest tobacco company in the U.S.; William Harvey, who presides over DuPont’s packaging and industrial polymers division; and Don Thompson, president and CEO of McDonald’s Corp., the largest fast food restaurant chain on the planet.

The event was hosted by NYSE Euronext and FedEx, one of the few companies to have three execs make the roster: Shannon Brown, SVP & Chief HR/Diversity Officer; Cathy D. Ross, CFO; and Mathew Thornton III, SVP, U.S. Operations — all members of its FedEx Express division. Echoing the sentiment of a number of the Most Power 100 in attendance, Thornton said, “This is truly an honor. It is great to receive this recognition among your peers and to demonstrate there are no limits to achievement.”

Black Enterprise has identified the most powerful executives since launching its inaugural list in February 1988 as “America’s Hottest Black Managers.” That cadre of high-powered professionals included only one division president and not a single woman. Over 25 years, the publication has developed the list four other times — in 1993, 2000, 2005 and 2009 — revealing some icons of American industry like ex-Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines (named the first black chief executive of one of the country’s top 500 publicly-traded companies in 1999); former Time Warner Chairman & CEO and Citgroup Chairman Dick Parsons; former Merrill Lynch & Co. honcho Stanley O’Neal; former Young & Rubicam Chairman & CEO Ann M. Fudge and former head of Avis and current AARP CEO A. Barry Rand. Today, eight executives on the list  – including one woman — are CEOs of leading publicly-traded companies. Thompson is one of the members of that exclusive club that includes Xerox Corp.’s Ursula Burns and American Express’ Kenneth Chenault, the only executive to be found on all five listings.

Speaking on behalf of the Most Powerful 100, Thompson said that “it’s great to be recognized by your own” and that all of the executives honored were able to reach the upper echelons of corporate American by “standing on the shoulders of giants.” He used the opportunity to pay homage to African American business trailblazers including Black Enterprise Founder and Publisher Earl G. Graves, Sr.

Publisher Graves recently wrote in his Publisher’s Page column: “The progress of African American executive talent in corporate America is undeniable, as evidenced by our list of top black corporate leaders, which has grown from the inaugural 25 to 100 talented men and women drawn from a pool of several hundred candidates. It’s great to list 100 but it should be 1,000 with 100 CEOs.”

Inspired by the 1988 roster and deeply honored to make two recent lists, Elliott J. Lyons, group president of commercial vehicle products of Leggett & Platt Inc.: “As long as we keep exposing the achievements of executives like those in this room, I see the day when we will reach 1,000.”

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