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Obama tops Forbes' 'World's Most Powerful People' list

Publication Date : 06-12-2012


Fresh off his election victory, US President Barack Obama maintains the top spot on Forbes' fourth annual ranking of "The World's Most Powerful People", the annual look at the heads of state, financiers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs who truly run the world.

There are 7.1 billion people on the planet, but the magazine picked 71 people whose influence matters most in the areas they represent.

Angela Merkel (No. 2) moves up from fourth place last year, followed by Russian President Vladimir Putin (No. 3), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates (No. 4) and Pope Benedict XVI (No. 5).

Rounding out the Top 10 are US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke (No. 6), Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud (No. 7), European Central Bank President Mario Draghi (No. 8), General Secretary, Communist Party of China Xi Jinping (No. 9 ) and UK Prime Minister David Cameron (No. 10). Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (No. 25) dropped out of the Top 10 to 25, from No. 9 in 2011.

US President Barack Obama emerged, unanimously, as the world's most powerful person, for the second year running. Obama was the decisive winner of the 2012 US presidential election, and now he gets four more years to push his agenda.The President faces major challenges, including an unresolved budget crisis, stubbornly high unemployment and renewed unrest in the Middle East. But Obama remains the unquestioned commander in chief of the world's greatest military, and head of its sole economic and cultural superpower.

The second most powerful person in the world also happens to be the most powerful woman: Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, jumps up from No.4 last year to take the runner-up spot on the list. Merkel is the backbone of the 27-member European Union and carries the fate of the Euro on her shoulders; she's shown her power through a hard-line austerity solution for the European debt crisis.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (No.25) is one of the youngest persons on the list, at age 29; he dropped significantly from last year's top-ten ranking after Facebook's much-anticipated IPO turned out to be a flop. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff (No.18) is one of the list's biggest gainers: At the midpoint of her first term, Rousseff's emphasis on entrepreneurship has prompted a slew of new startups and energized Brazilian youths.

Apple CEO Tim Cook (No.35) made a big upward move, too: A year after he succeeded iconic founder Steve Jobs, the company is the most valuable in the world. Apple stock hit an all-time high in September, reaching above $700 a share.

New members of the list include LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman (No.71), the world's most powerful venture capitalist and the most-connected man in Silicon Valley. Elon Musk (No.66), the entrepreneur behind PayPal and Tesla Motors, is the most powerful man in space: His company SpaceX is a leader in the private space industry, and with that business set to boom, Musk stands to make out like a 19th-century railway tycoon.

A number of prominent people fell off the entirely. Last year's No.2, Chinese President Hu Jintao, is on his way out of office; he's already handed over some of his duties, and will surrender the rest early next year. We removed U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from the list for the same reasons: They're both not expected to return to their powerful posts for Obama's second term.

To compile the list, Forbes considered hundreds of candidates from various walks of life all around the globe, and measured their power along four dimensions. First, it asked whether candidate has power over lots of people. Pope Benedict XVI, ranked No.5 on our list, is the spiritual leader of more than a billion Catholics, or about 1/6th of the world's population. Michael Duke (No.17), CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, employs two million people.

Next it assessed the financial resources controlled by each person. For heads of state it used GDP, while for CEOs, it looked at measures like their company's assets and revenues.


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