Thursday, March 05, 2015

Amazon vs. Wal-Mart - My Annual Comparison

Here is a high-level comparison of Amazon to Wal-Mart. Note that Amazon uses a calendar year, while Wal-Mart uses a traditional retail fiscal calendar ending January 31st. I’ve compiled some numbers and ratios from each company for their respective fiscal year periods that include most or all of 2014. Therefore this comparison is slightly off. However, the comparison does include the traditional peak seasons of back-to-school and Christmas in both.
To make my job easier, I’m listing Wal-Mart first each time in the following comparisons.

Revenue: (in billions)
Absolute:  $485.6 vs. $89.0
Revenue Growth $:  $9.4 vs. $14.5
Revenue Growth %:  2.0% vs. 19.5%

There is no question that the clear growth winner is Amazon – adding $5.1 bil more in revenue in the last twelve months despite Wal-Mart’s base size advantage.  And the rate of growth is indeed impressive at almost 10X Wal-Mart’s.

Operating income: (in billions)
Absolute: $27.1 vs. $0.2
Operating income growth $: 0.3 vs. $(0.5)
Operating income growth %: 1.0% vs. negative
Operating income as a percentage of total revenue:  5.6% vs. 0.2%

While Amazon exceeded Wal-Mart’s revenue growth, Amazon managed to add $14.5 billion in revenue and not have any of that flow to operating income.

Net income: (in billions)
Absolute: $16.4 vs. $(0.2)
Net income growth $: $0.3 vs. $(0.5)
Net income growth %: 2.1% vs. negative
Net income as a percentage of sales: 3.4% vs. (0.3)%

Amazon has no income.

Cash Flow: (in billions)
Note: cash flow as presented here is: cash flow provided by (used in) operating activities. That is, net income plus depreciation, amortization and stock comp plus changes in working capital. These are taken directly from the financial statements filed with the SEC for Amazon and the earnings release for Wal-Mart.

Absolute: WMT $24.4 vs.  AMZN$ 6.8
Cash flow as a percentage of revenue: WMT 5.2% vs. AMZN 7.7%

I’ll admit that I found this percentage was particularly surprising. Given that Wal-Mart starts with a 3.7 percentage point advantage from net income, how does Amazon end up with a higher percentage?  The details point to two factors: depreciation and amortization (non-cash) account for a far larger share of revenue for Amazon [5.33%  than for Wal-Mart [1.88%] and stock compensation (again non-cash) is a much larger percentage of revenue for AMZN than WMT. (Note that Wal-Mart did not show stock comp as a separate component in its earnings release. Therefore I’m concluding that it is less material. WMT certainly has stock comp expense. I may find time to update this when it files its 10K). Given the physical store presence of WMT, AMZN’s higher depreciation and amortization is also somewhat surprising. Does AMZN have a more conservative depreciation policy?

Returns
ROIC: WMT 13.3% vs. AMZN (0.7)%
ROE: WMT 19.6% vs. AMZN  (2.4)%

ROIC defined as net income plus tax-affected interest expense divided by equity capital plus interest bearing debt. Equity plus interest bearing debt is calculated with a two point average of beginning and ending balances.

ROE is a simple net income divided by a two point average of beginning and ending equity.

Valuation
Price to sales: WMT 54.9%; AMZN 200%
Price to book: WMT 3.1X; AMZN 16.6X
Enterprise value to EBITDA: WMT: 8.7; AMZN: 38.

Disclosures
I own $WMT. I’ve owned it for a very long time. I don’t own AMZN. 
I shop both regularly, particularly the Sam’s Club division of WMT for numerous products, and principally books and music from AMZN.  I’m a loyal customer of each. I’m also a published author on Amazon Kindle. Two titles: Jobs Over Fifty: The Guide to Finding New Employment for The Experienced Worker and Survive And Prosper Fifty Steps to Job And Career Security.

Observations
Clearly holders of Amazon are being rewarded for stellar revenue growth and industry disruption.  And one could argue that those factors require some non-traditional valuation techniques.  I would argue to the counter: Amazon is no longer a new business; it has been around now for a generation.   I assume that there is little further efficiency gain for Amazon–i t operates highly efficiently today–or that any productivity gains it achieves are likely to be matched by similar gains by Wal-Mart. Therefore, it is difficult to see how Amazon produces an attractive return on capital without price increases-which would, in turn, reduce its advantage.

There are claims that Amazon’s real value lies in its cash flow. And clearly it is higher as a percentage of revenue.  But WMT’s absolute cash flow dwarfs AMZN, albeit that much of that is consumed by dividends which AMZN doesn’t pay.

WMT’s ROE benefits nicely from years of stock buybacks thinning the equity as well as a decent level of leverage.  The resultant ROE (using an average of beginning and ending equity) is a very respectable  19.6% and ROIC, helped by very low interest rates, is a little better than average at 13.3%.  Conversely, I would argue that, while Wal-Mart can clearly handle its debt load, the amount of leverage may be hurting the share price some.

Finally, the returns on capital speak for themselves. If you have essentially no income, you have no return to capital.  If shareholders never demand a return of their capital, then I suppose there is no reason to provide a return.  A unique business model indeed.

My Position

I’ll continue to hold Wal-Mart, collect my increasingly rich dividend, and shop at both.  I predict that Amazon’s share price will come to earth at some point, but I don’t have a sufficient conviction to short it – and shorting against a billionaire CEO is too risky a strategy for me.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: The Second Machine Age Work Progress And Prosperity In A Time Of Brilliant Technologies

From time to time one reads a book that is important. The Second Machine Age Work Progress And Prosperity In A Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee is important. In the authors’ view, the confluence of falling technology costs, increased computer processing power, cheap sensors and the quality and ubiquity of networks, are ushering in a revolution equally as potent and far-reaching as the Industrial Revolution.
Drawing parallels to the effect on civilization of the Industrial evolution, and how long its subsequent impact has continued, they see brilliant technologies in the early stage of changing about everything. They provide a historical context on the growth in living standards, starting with the domestication of the horse, development of agriculture, which led to cities, afforded great armies and so on.  Things really didn’t advance much from there until the steam engine was perfected, which created factories, mass transit, electrification and essentially modern life.
They support the case that while innovation drives productivity, it takes time for innovation to be adopted, widespread and then subsequent advancements to leverage combinations of innovations.
The authors identify how those new combinations are occurring. The new revolution starts with the difference in digital goods to traditional goods.  Digital goods can be endlessly copied at a cost that is nearly zero. And falling costs combined with improving power is enabling machines to do things now that researchers weren’t projecting to happen until far into the future – e.g.-Watson beating anyone at chess; driverless cars and Siri. 
And like the Industrial Revolution, there will be sharp winners and losers. Just as motorized looms destroyed jobs in textiles; robots, speech-activated call processing, and tax software replace factory and warehouse workers, call center agents and accountants. Digital downloads replace the CD and reduce musicians income. The authors are concerned that the job loss affect may be longer lasting and more far reaching with this revolution than the Industrial. In the Industrial Revolution, farmworkers displaced by tractors, threshers and combines found work in factories. They make an interesting argument that digitalization makes it possible for everyone to have the best. An example they use is that if one bricklayer can lay X bricks per hour, that doesn’t mean that someone won’t hire the second best bricklayer who can only achieve .9X; perhaps at a slightly lower wage. In the world of digital goods, in some fields everyone worldwide has access to the single best, eliminating work for second and third place. Expanding that argument, in many fields one only had access to providers in one’s area-town, city etc., but in the digital realm one has instant global access. While they foresee a variety of new jobs being created, they find it difficult to envision where an equivalent number of jobs will be created.  Indeed, they pin some of the failure of total employment to return to pre-2008 levels on the widespread adoption of technology reducing staffing requirements.
They cover the types of jobs they see at most and least risk in the race against the machine. More importantly they cover skills and education needed to compete in the future. I hesitate to call out any chapter as particularly informative or intellectually challenging; they are all impressive.  The authors conclude with policy recommendations. Part of the discussion made me nervous; I feared they were heading for a policy recommendation of guaranteed income, or extremely high tax rates on the successful. Instead, they rallied to a defense of work and its importance [They provide a good example of two communities, one where employment was high even if wages were low vs. same income levels from welfare-type programs but low employment. The latter area was blighted].
They conclude with a series of policy recommendations and, as they label it, wild idea s. One is a national mutual fund to make sure everyone has, as one of my bosses used to say, a piece of the rock.  Let me provide my twist to their national mutual fund wild idea. The U.S. needs to invest the funds that come into Social Security. Now, before someone’s hair catches on fire, I didn’t say “privatize”.  (I agree in some small way with Presidential candidate Al Gore’s “lock box” hypothesis). Many states have excellently run pension funds for state employees. (Some of those pension funds may be underfunded, but that isn’t the managers’ fault). Leading examples include Calpers in CA, Wisconsin Teachers and Texas Teachers. What I am talking about is funding Social Security, not privatizing it. It will take a very long term view – fifty or more years. If two percent of the incoming funds into Social Security were invested in the first year, and then increased by an additional two percent each subsequent year, in fifty years the trust would be backed by actual assets.
As with any investment program, diversification would be important.  Our funds should go in to timberland, oil and gas, stocks, bonds, apartment houses, raw land, shopping centers and the like. At that point, every American would be a capitalist, and an owner of the capital deployed in these new technologies.
This is an important book, highlighting topics that affect business, government, education, labor, and personal skills development.

Highly recommended.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Four Reasons to Be Optimistic About Medicare

The most recent trustees’ report forecasts that the Medicare trust fund will be exhausted in 2030. While that is a financially frightening prospect, there was good news buried in the report: the previous forecast indicated the funds would be gone in 2026.
I believe there are reasons to be far more optimistic. Here’s why:
1.       There are cheaper medical services on the way. Theranos has a totally new approach to blood analysis as an example. Founded by Elizabeth Holmes, and backed by a who’s who, Theranos has micro labs that can be installed anywhere and only require a few drops of blood. Millions of us troop to a Quest Diagnostics center, or one of its competitors, to have our blood chemistry tested for any of thousands of things like cholesterol levels, hepatitis presence, insulin and blood sugar and so on. Quest, of course, bills the patient, and/or the patient’s insurer, including Medicare. Theranos is an example of a better, cheaper, faster option. While its new process must make it through the FDA approval minefield, I expect it will eventually become a real alternative, certainly before 2030. And, due to FDA leadership, the Obama administration or both, the FDA has actually shown some needed speed and flexibility recently.
2.       There are new ways to clean hospital rooms. There are a number of life-threatening illnesses that, from a practical point of view, can only be caught in a hospital or a nursing home. Nasty strains of pneumonia. The debilitating clostrium difficile. In its April 2013 report, Antibiotic Resistant Threats in the United States, the CDC estimates 23,000 Americans die each year from microbes that are resistant to current treatments. It states “The estimates are based on conservative assumptions and are likely minimum estimates”.  Many, if not most, of these deaths are a result of infections acquired in a hospital. Patients are treated with a series of more and more toxic (and expensive) antibiotics in hopes of curing the infection. Xenex Healthcare now provides robots that disinfect hospital rooms with high-intensity bursts of light. Savings to patients (copays and out-of-pockets), insurers and underwriters including Medicare should run into the billions.
3.       There are new antibiotics on the way. Again, treatment of patients infected with superbugs is expensive. Patients may be in high-cost intensive care units. Better antibiotics can prevent or reduce most of those costs. Most pharmaceutical companies have walked away from antibiotic research. From an investment viewpoint, that decision makes a lot of sense. FDA approval is gigantically expensive. If approved, an antibiotic may only be used for a few doses. And if patients are sickened, have reactions or die as a result of an antibiotic treatment, lawsuits are certain to follow. Therefore pharma has moved research to the treatment of chronic illnesses like diabetes, where they may have a customer for twenty years, thirty or even longer. But there are some firms that are investing in antibiotics. Northeastern University, in conjunction with NovoBiotic, have announced isolating Teixobactin, a soil-dwelling bacteria that doesn’t get along with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), one of the most evil superbugs. Testing so far indicates that Teixobactin is well-tolerated in mice and kills a variety of bad actors.
4.       Eventually, we hope that auditing will catch up with the bad guys. Years ago, some Medicare official stated that as much as ten percent of Medicare billings are fraudulent. Apparently that was based on pretty flimsy analysis. However, there is at least anecdotal reason to believe it could be more than ten percent – actually a lot more. Some future Congress and Administration will likely chose to apply the same data techniques that Visa, Mastercard and American Express apply to spot fraudulent card activity in seconds. That alone might be enough to add several more years of life to the trust fund.

While I’ve shown four reasons, in reality they boil down to fewer. Science and technology underlie all. That makes me optimistic that people will live longer and healthier, and Medicare won’t run out of money as fast as feared.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review of The Peripheral by William Gibson

If you are a William Gibson fan, you’ll likely be excited to learn that he has returned to his particular flavor of science fiction. He has detoured into more conventional (but no less enjoyable) fiction recently, exploring conflicts among ad agency/security firms, investment denim creators, spying drones controlled by smart phones, etc, but returns to the scifi genre in The Peripheral. For folks who’ve never read his work, his prose is exactly right-not unnecessarily long, not too spare. Just right.
 He is the guru of the near-future; one reads about things in his work that you are certain don’t exist, and then observes them in a few years. This novel however reaches a little farther into time than his previous work. It presumes that multiple presents and futures exist-that is the multiverse or quantum universe hypothesis.
Within that framework, he shows his craftsmanship in creating characters that the reader immediately envisions, easily finds believable and become interested in.
In the book, the U.S. has been economically devastated by an event only hinted at. Our protagonist Flynne is an expert gamer and the sister of a former highly skilled military veteran. (Gibson seems partial to heroines).  At his request, she substitutes for her brother in what she believes to be testing an online shooter game, only to observe a death that she finds uncomfortably realistic. Her observation of the event set the plot in motion, and the book proceeds along two dimensions, one in the not-to-distant future U.S.; the other farther into a future. And the folks in the more distant future have learned how to get messages to the past/other parts of the multiverse. And some of them are out to make sure that no one in their future finds out what Flynne saw.
These messages flow in both directions and enable Flynne and others to experience the alternate universe via realtime communications. Going much further into that will give too much away.
While it is science fiction in its roots, Gibson has always been equal parts scenes, characters, mystery and action, with the future tech and science fiction in supporting roles. The action proceeds quickly in The Peripheral, locking the reader in. We become quickly attached to the no-nonsense, quick-thinking Flynne, her professional warrior brother Burton, and his ex-military buddies. We are suspicious of Inspector Ainsley Lowbeer who is investigating certain event in the future, and curious how she seems to know so much. We are unsure of who are the good guys and bad guys within the large cast of characters in the alternate universe.
Like a few other celebrated authors, Gibson creates words when he feels it necessary (do any reviews fail to mention he invented the term cyberspace?). A few new ones crop up here; we’ll see which join the dictionary.
I’ve stated before that I have one huge problem with Gibson. Apparently I can read his books far faster than he can write them. I did my best to stretch this one out- limiting the number of chapters to burn through at each sitting. Fighting the urge for an all-night reading session. But inevitably I finished and I eagerly await his next.

This is William Gibson at his best: a skillful professional story teller. An intriguing page-turner. Highly recommended not only to Gibson fans like me but to anyone who cares for science fiction.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Connectioning Three Seemingly Disparate Pieces of Data


  1. Dr. Amy Reed, an anesthesiologist from Boston, has advanced cancer, possibly spread by a device called a morcellator.
  2. According to highly –esteemed analyst Stephanie Pomboy of Macro Mavens, as quoted in Barron’s July 12th 2014 edition, there are three million four hundred thousand (3,400,000) fewer fulltime workers now than before the Great Recession.
  3. The FDA is proposing regulation of cigar manufacturers and a stunning tax on cigars.

How are these three things connected?

Before we get into that, let us thank Dr. Amy Reed, who is battling Stage Four cancer, for raising the issue of the risks that may be associated with using the morbidly named “morcellator” in association with hysterectomies.  More on that here.  Dr. Reed is doing all women a big favor.  And thanks should also go to USA Today, and more particularly to America’s sole remaining conservative newspaper The Wall St. Journal for raising awareness sufficiently that the FDA had to look into it.  This is the basis of the connections, i.e., until the doctor and her husband, also a doctor, made a cause out of it the FDA wasn’t aware of it.

Now, why hasn’t the FDA looked into this before now?  Apparently because they have diverted their resources into issuing rules and regulations over the cigar industry.  Their proposed tax on cigars would likely wipe out most of the independent mom and pop cigar stores throughout the U.S.  Even though we know that cigar smokers rarely smoke with the frequency of cigarette smokers, generally don’t inhale and as a result are less likely to get cancer than cigarette smokers, the FDA is hell-bent to put the local cigar shops out of business.  I guess they haven’t noticed- or don’t care-that there are 3.4 million fewer fulltime workers than before the recession and closing mom and pop cigar stores will add to the number.

If you enjoy an occasional cigar, you might want to stock up now.

Say a prayer for Dr. Reed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

You Are 52 And Worried About Keeping Your/Looking for a Job


I was re-reading a business book that was published in 1991.  It had success stories of companies that had installed new management techniques.  (The author, of course, was an expert on those techniques.)  Many of those companies no longer exist.  Not because of following the writer’s recommendations – those are actually pretty good even today. But because of the earth-shattering changes that have swept U.S. and the world- of industry.

You – our model worker- just recently celebrated your fifty –second birthday.  You were part of a wave of baby –boomer women who swept into colleges and universities in the seventies and eighties and graduated in 1984.  Or perhaps it is you – the man who completed military service at that same time.  You entered the work force in 1984.

Think about just how much things have changed since then.  Tools you learned to use only to discard and replace them with something newer and better.  When you started working, PCs and Macs were just becoming deployed in the workplace on a widespread basis.  You learned WordPerfect, Lotus 123 and Harvard Graphics to take advantage of the new computer power on your desk.  You needed to, because, as famed Professor Lester Thurow explained, Japanese companies were crushing U.S. companies and your future earnings and advancement were being diminished as a result. Mr. Thurow certainly had my attention.  Despite noteworthy skills and an industrious workforce, the Japanese didn’t destroy us economically after all.  (Thurow it turns out underestimated the microprocessor).

You learned Management by Objectives, and maybe had to employ Zero-based Budgeting, at least for a while.

Peters and Waterman ushered in the age of big-selling business books with The Search for Excellence, which you studied carefully. If your employer was on the cutting edge, and had learned to fear and covet Japanese productivity, it trained you on Just-in-Time manufacturing, quality circles and quality control (QC) methods.

By the late eighties, some of your more successful friends were getting phones installed in their cars, but the equipment took up a big space in their car trunk, and they complained about the size of their monthly bills.  Others purchased suitcase-sized portable computers from firms like Kaypro and Compaq.  Prices for fast PCs fell to around $2,000.

You learned all new productivity programs as Microsoft swept Lotus, WordPerfect and Harvard Graphics right off the playing field.  But that was OK; you’re competitive and you aren’t going to be left behind.  Mobile phone prices dropped to the point that you were willing to buy one, and purchased a Nokia candy-bar shaped phone.  It could hold twenty numbers in memory!  Making calls was as easy as using your home phone, but there were lots of places where you couldn’t get on a network.  You learned to watch for a network signal, because “roaming” charges were budget-busters.  You had mastered expense control.

You learned all the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People .  Actually, you practice most of them to this day.

Your boss’s boss’s boss read Michael Hammer’s Reengineering the Corporation, and suddenly your work life was chaos.  Your employer had to reengineer everything.  Some of the changes actually worked, as cheap computer power was harnessed to do work differently and more effectively.  But you watched as it spread throughout corporate America, and reengineering just became a code word for layoffs. Far too often it wasn’t doing work more effectively at all.  To this day you can spot a process that is a mess and size it up with a glance and determine if it is a candidate for process improvement or the more complex reengineering effort.

You realized that you needed to learn more about the “Internet” and ended up opening an AOL account.  It wasn’t too clear what you could do with it, but the little ping and “You’ve got mail” became addictive-at least at first.  Your shelf of business books grew with William Ouchi’s Theory Z as your company decided that if it couldn’t manage culture, it could at least influence it. With every new version of Windows and Office you acquired – and really used - Windows for Dummies, not to mention the documentation that came with each PC you purchased.  You missed investing in Netscape, but you definitely noticed it, and sensed something different was indeed happening.  You bought a Palm Pilot and learned its little characters.  However, you kept losing or breaking the stylus and you quietly questioned whether it wasn’t just better and faster to write in a journal.

Your employer concluded that it must be number one or number two in every market it served.  You concluded that defining a market was far more art than science, and that a surprising number of companies convinced themselves that they were finishing first or second in some market.

Suddenly things seemed to move faster, and the requirement to both be in the office more and be available for email and calls in your “off” hours increased.  Consultants started saying that your employer needed to move at Internet speed or be left behind forever.  On the personal side, you noticed that the once-wimpy young auditors that showed up in your office were suddenly not wimpy at all, but clearly pumping iron in the gym.  And the lowly programmers suddenly commanded premium wages – even older ones – actually particularly the older ones who knew Fortran and Assembler and Cobol as rumors of software problems associated with Y2K circulated. 

A few of your friends quit their jobs and became daytraders.  Not too long thereafter they bought Mercedes and Rolexes.  Later they learned about pawn shops and crushing reality of lease payments when the Internet bubble burst.  You saw the value of your carefully built 401(k) drop by 40% and your planned retirement date recede into the future.

You’ve changed jobs, and your employers have changed owners, and you survived and even thrived as you worked with software from Sage and Lawson and Oracle and Great Plains and SAP and SAS.  Not to mention specialized applications in your field.

“Blackberries” started sprouting on the belt of every successful person you knew.  Checking email continuously became de rigueur.  You are now a master of the taps, clicks and swipes necessary to exploit the super-computer in your pocket.

More recently you’ve been introduced to Workday, Wordpress and Salesforce.

You’ve been downsized and laid-off and outsourced, but have survived them all.

You watched as your employer struggled with old advertising and promotion approaches while upstarts took customers away using Google Ad Words, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.  In response, you learned something about SEO and SEM.  Seth Godin taught you Permission Marketing  while Charlene Li was informing you about all things social in Groundswell  and Jonah Berger explained how to make ideas Contagious.

You’ve seen a lot. You’ve learned a lot. You can take a punch and get up. You’ve learned a lot about human nature.  You’ve reported to mature folks, and to a kid that probably didn’t need to shave. You don’t panic. You can do stuff, and a lot of it.

Yes, there are kids who can surf the net faster, and think they can multi-task (although new science shows that they make a lot of mistakes and do a third rate job when they do).  But you also learned the 10,000 hour rule, and those hours are in your rear view mirror.

When the NY Knicks needed a new basketball executive, they turned to 68 year old Phil Jackson.  Warren Buffet, at 87, is still considered the greatest investor of all time.  Sixty-six year old Hillary Rodham Clinton is poised to run for the President of the United States. If she does, she’ll be 68 when the election comes up. When people want something done, and done well, they look for someone with deep experience.

That’s you isn’t it?

Friday, January 03, 2014


 
Today Forbes announced its list of the thirty most important people under thirty.  Fortune did the same thing recently.  Are you tired of reading lists of “Thirty Leaders Under Thirty”?  Here is a list of the sixty most influential, annoying, important or just folks over sixty.  Here then, sorted by age, is The Sixty Most Important People Over Sixty.
  1. Henry Kissinger.  Still the U.S. best thinker on foreign policy and diplomacy.
  2. Jimmy Carter.  Better as an ex-President than President.  His work for Habitat for Humanity is a lesson for all of us.
  3. T. Boone Pickens.  Oilman, energy expert.  Creator of The Pickens Plan for energy independence.
  4. Frank Gehry.  Showing the world what new materials and CAD design can do to architecture.
  5. Warren Bufett. Best investor in history.  Becoming one of the best philanthropists in history.
  6. Alan Simpson.  Former Senator who, along with Bowles (below) is trying to get U.S. to fiscal sanity.
  7. Diane Feinstein.  Influential Sr. Senator from CA.
  8. Carl Icahn.  Activist investor.
  9. Anthony Kennedy.  Supreme Court Justice
  10. Jack Nicholson.  Actor
  11. Freeman Morgan.  Actor.  “Through the Wormhole” commentator.
  12. Yvon Chouinard. Founder of Patagonia, environmental activist and enemy of dams.
  13. Ralph Lauren.  Fashion industry titan.
  14. Harry Reid.  Senate Majority Leader.
  15. Toby Cosgrove.  MD and President of The Cleveland Clinic.
  16. Nancy Pelosi.  House Minority Leader.
  17. William Kock.  Billionaire businessman and Libertarian.
  18. Roger Ailes.  Founder of Fox News.
  19. Don Imus. Radio personality, philanthropist, professional curmudgeon.
  20. Barbara Boxer.  Jr. Senator from CA.
  21. Martha Stewart.  Fashion arbiter, CEO of Martha Stewart Omnimedia.
  22. Michael Bloomberg.  Former Mayor of NYC; eponymous founder of Bloomberg.
  23. Mitch McConnell.  Senate Minority Leader.
  24. Aretha Franklin.  Soul and R&B singer.
  25. Joe Biden.  VP of the U.S.
  26. Newt Gringrich.  Former House Speaker, author and conservative thought leader.
  27. Jerry Bruckheimer.  Co-creator of CSI, Cold Case, many others.
  28. George Lucas. Motion picture producer and director; world builder.
  29. Larry Ellison.  Founder of Oracle.
  30. Lorne Michaels.  Founder of Saturday Night Live.
  31. Erskine Bowles.  Co-leader of Simpson Bowles Committee. Prophet.
  32. Harold Hamm.  Founder & CEO of Continental Resources, shale/fracking leader.
  33. Diane Sawyer.  ABC news anchorwoman.
  34. Dolly Parton.  Singer, songwriter, entrepreneur.
  35. Cher Sarkisian.  Singer and entertainer.
  36. Janet Yellen.  President-Federal Reserve Bank; arguably the world’s most powerful woman.
  37. Bill Clinton.  Former President.  Co-founder of Clinton Global Initiative.
  38. Stephen Spielberg.  Motion picture producer and director.
  39. Dick Wolfe.  Co-creator of Law & Order franchise.
  40. James Rothman.  Yale Professor of Biomedical Science; Nobel Prize Winner.
  41. Camile Paglia.  Professor and author.
  42. Hillary Clinton.  Former Senator, former Secretary of State, Presidential candidate.
  43. Dick Parsons. Former CEO of Citibank, former CEO of Time-Warner, advisor to Providence Equity.
  44. Kathleen Sebelius.  Secretary of Health & Human Services. Charged with fixing Obamacare.
  45. Randy Schekman. California University Cell Biologist; Nobel Prize Winner.
  46. David Rubenstein.  CEO of private equity firm Carlyle.
  47. Bruce Springsteen.  Singer and songwriter.
  48. Mike Duke.  CEO of Wal-Mart.
  49. Timothy Dolan.  Cardinal of NY.
  50. Francis Collins.  Director, National Institute of Health.
  51. Chuck Schumer.  Sr. Senator from NY.
  52. Rush Limbaugh. Talk show host; most influential conservative.
  53. Bob Iger.  Chairman & CEO: Disney.
  54. Keith Alexander. General; Director of NSA.
  55. John Noseworthy.  CEO of The Mayo Clinic.
  56. Danielle Steele.  Top ten best-selling author of all time.
  57. Maureen Dowd.  Influential NY Times editorialist.
  58. Martin Dempsey.  General-U.S. Army. Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  59. Rex Tillerson. CEO of Exxon Mobile.
  60. Howard Schultz.  Founder and CEO of Starbucks.

There were many other excellent choices, and my selection is largely arbitrary.  But I welcome your suggestions for additions (please don’t bother with deletions) and will consider them for my next update.  Post your comment here.