Alfonso Cortina

CEO -- Repsol-YPF -- Spain

It was a risky wager. Oil was around $15 a barrel in June 1999 when Alfonso Cortina, chief executive of Spanish oil company Repsol, shelled out $15 billion for control of Argentina's YPF. The price tag for the 85% stake, to add to the 15% it already owned, matched Repsol's total market capitalization.

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