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Pranay Gupte 2005 List of 41 Powerful People

Published by on 2005-01-01

As an international journalist, I get to meet fascinating people all over the world. "Fascinating" doesn't necessarily mean "nice." But I've always been intrigued by men and women who accumulate power. My central question always is: How do they do it?

Single-mindedness is certainly one characteristic that I see in such people. They are very focused on their objectives. Ruthlessness is another quality that I find in some superachievers. They don't let anything, or anyone, stand in their way, although they are usually very skilled in practicing the art of ruthlessness-by-stealth-and-cordiality.

People skills are important. The most successful achievers got to where they are by, among other things, carefully networking and persuading others to see or do things their way. That means possessing -- or at least projecting -- charm, plenty of it.

Communications skills are similarly important. Superachievers are articulate people, often both as speakers and writers. Intellectual versatility and nimbleness are also key characteristics. The achievers I've known simply have superior minds.

Foresight is yet another quality that superachievers have in common. They seem to be able to size up situations and accurately gauge where things might be going.

I would like to be able to say that kindness, humility and generosity are also qualities that superachievers across global cultures share. But that's not always the case.

Herewith my "Power List 2005," arranged alphabetically. I've selected 41 figures from several fields, although media personalities seem to crop up more than others. My basic criterion in selecting people for the list was: Did this person make a significant -- and positive -- impact on his/her environment? Some are boldface names; others work quietly behind the headlines. Some wield overt power; others have the power to influence more subtly. I admire many of the people cited below, some of whom I know well personally; I am certainly impressed by their accomplishments.

Felix Abisheganaden (Sri Lanka): A marvelously charming man, he's a powerhouse of public-relations in Asia. His company, Prestige Communications, is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and its roster of clients is a "Who's Who" of the region.

Zeina Abou Rizk (Lebanon): An astute political columnist for The Daily Star, her writings accurately reflect thinking in power circles in Lebanon and its master, neighboring Syria.

R. W. Apple, Jr. (United States): The complete journalist. More than 40 years with The New York Times, "Johnny" Apple is unsurpassed as a writer of news analyses, and as a feature portraitist whose work on culture and food is always exhaustingly researched and beautifully composed. In March 2005, readers are in for a treat: "Apple's America," an anthology of his reportage, will hit the bookstores.

Ken Auletta (United States): Probably the most widely followed writer on the American media, Auletta's profiles of moguls and tycoons are always a delight to read. His books, often expanded versions of his work for The New Yorker, offer incredible insight into media men and how they make -- and spend -- their money.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Malaysia): The 66-year-old prime minister of Malaysia has a hard act to follow -- his predecessor, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed, was charismatic and voluble, and often exasperated the West with his pronouncements concerning Asian cultural values. Badawi is the "moderate face of Islam" in Asia, and is emphasizing the eradication of corruption as well as acceleration of regional economic and political ties.

Jagdish Bhagwati (United States): The world's foremost expert on trade, the Columbia University professor's best-selling 2004 book, "In Defense of Globalization," is a must-read.

Bobby Choonawala (Singapore): Formerly head of Digital's Asia operations, he's a savvy entrepreneur with always a kind word for everybody, and lots of hard-earned business acumen and wisdom to share.

Chua Huck Cheng (Singapore): His tightly written editorials for The Straits Times are a model of sound journalistic craftsmanship and intellectual clarity.

Sucheta Dalal (India): A tough, incisive economic analyst, her assessments of the Indian economy and of markets are always right on. Read her and learn.

Shobhaa De (India): India's best-selling novelist, and a columnist who writes sharply and tartly. Grown-ups quake at the prospect of being her targets.

Rajiv Desai (India): PR maestro who's helping Sonia Gandhi rebuild the moribund Indian National Congress Party at the grassroots -- where its strength always lay.

Maureen Dowd (United States): Along with the New York Times's Tom Friedman (see below) the best columnist in the world.

Maurice Flanagan (United Kingdom): He helped Emirates Airways become what it's become -- one of the best-run airlines in the world.

Werner Fornos (United States): Relentless is the word that comes to mind when one thinks of Werner Fornos. The best spokesman ever for the cause of population issues, he runs the Washington-based Population Institute.

Thomas L. Friedman (United States): Sui generis. Three Pulitzer Prizes, the National Book Award, and three best-sellers in a row, with a fourth one on the horizon. What more can a columnist for The New York Times want? More Pulitzers.

Paul Goldberger (United States): America's best architecture critic -- he writes for The New Yorker -- he's now the dean of the Parsons School of Design. Wonderfully fluid writer.

Bruce and Karolyn Gould (United States): He's a former judge of New York's housing court, and now practices privately. She's a prominent social worker and educator. The lives they've influenced through the power of their love and intellect are far too numerous to list. But here's one: mine.

Babulal Jain (India): He's India's "Mister Enabler." In a country of ready excuses for doing nothing, Babulal gets thing done.

Abdulhamid Juma (United Arab Emirates): As CEO of Dubai's Media City, he's persuaded top news organizations from around the world to set up shop in the desert emirate. Quite an achievement.

Tommy Koh (Singapore): The Singaporean ambassador, who distinguished himself representing his country at the United Nations, is now Singapore's culture czar. The Asian Civilizations Museum that he supervises is a marvel. Tommy Koh is a national treasure.

Vincent Lim (Malaysia): Quiet spoken, he's emerged as an influential adviser to Malaysia's Prime Minister Badawi.

Jim MacNeill (Canada): "Mister Environment," the former Secretary General of the Brundtland Commission is the world's conscience on sustainable development.

Edward L. Morse (United States): Founder of American Petroleum Intelligence, the former Carter Administration whiz is the most influential authority on world oil and energy issues.

Priyalatha Naidu (Singapore): A live-wire lawyer in Singapore, she's also a force in promoting cultural harmony in a multiracial society.

Parvathi Nayar (Singapore): Her paintings capture the power and potential of women. If art is a cultural forum, then Parvathi's voice rises with mellifluous beauty and magic.

Supachai Panitchpakdi (Thailand): As Director General of the World Trade Organization, he's made the powerful institution more transparent and a proponent of good governance and accountability. His unceasing emphasis on lowering or removing trade barriers and tariffs has especially helped the 135 countries of the developing world.

Bakul Patel (India): The sharpest political and social analyst in India. If only the country's leaders followed her advice more scrupulously, India would be making faster economic progress.

Peter G. Peterson (United States): The founder of the Blackstone Group, a highly successful New York investment bank, he's helped put the Council on Foreign Relations on a sound financial footing. As author of numerous books on social and financial issues, the former US Commerce Secretary continually offers wise perspectives that policymakers find useful -- and that readers respond to by making his books best-sellers.

Gaiti Rabbani (Pakistan): Formerly with Dubai's Media City, she now heads the marketing efforts of the new Dubai Metals and Commodities Center. She's the poster child for the 21st Century Successful Professional Woman.

Steven L. Rattner (United States): The wunderkind of investment banking, this former New York Times reporter is a case study in how to succeed in the world's toughest city, New York, through smarts and sheer will power.

David Remnick (United States): Quite possibly the best editor of any contemporary publication -- in his case, the prestigious New Yorker. Remnick, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his book, Lenin's Tomb, also continues his own writing. That's a double treat for New Yorker readers -- of whom I'm a loyal one.

Frank Rich (United States): The most insightful cultural commentator in the world. And the most influential.

Klaus Schwab (Switzerland): The founder of the World Economic Forum found himself in a soup when his CEO, Jose Maria Figueres -- a former president of Costa Rica -- became embroiled in an international financial scandal. But Schwab acted decisively, removing Figueres and restoring the Forum's reputation in one fell swoop.

Pathma Selvadurai (Singapore): A former member of parliament, and a top lawyer, he's also helped strengthen Singapore's multicultural life through the Society of Indian Fine Arts. His personal collection of Asian art rivals that of any top museum.

Ismail Serageldin (Egypt): The fantastic new Bibilotheque Alexandrina is testimony to one man's driving dream to recreate the Alexandria Library of antiquity.

Ambika Shukla (India): Deeply passionate about the welfare of animals, she's emerged as a leading global advocate about animal rights through her New Delhi-based organization, People for Animals.

Tan Sri Dr. Noordin Sopiee (Malaysia): Chairman and CEO of Malaysia's Institute of Strategic and International Studies, he runs an institution that become a regional heavyweight among think tanks.

Omar Bin Sulaiman (United Arab Emirates): The chief executive officer of Dubai's Internet City has made it such a success that its business model is now being exported to a dozen countries around the world.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. (United States): The chairman and publisher of The New York Times has transformed the mythical newspaper into a multimedia global player.

George and Marianne Vecsey (United States): He's America's great sports columnist (for The New York Times), and author of many books. She's an artist, and a social activist with an abiding interest in children from developing countries. Together, they add up to the most wonderful couple I've ever known.

Maureen White (United States): A fundraising genius for the Democratic Party in the United States, the former investment banker also raises a family of smart young children. Try matching that.

Mandira Wirk (India): India's fashion sensation, her designs are creating waves in the Subcontinent and beyond. And she's not quite 28.

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist

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