Microsoft (MSFT )
A year ago, Steven A. Ballmer was still getting used to his new job as Microsoft Corp.'s CEO. These days, he's hell-bent on reshaping the software giant. Ballmer, 46, has overhauled the management process, tightening the company's loosely woven structure into something better suited to a more mature Microsoft. And he has pushed more authority down to key senior managers. "We're investing a lot of time and effort in thinking about how to do an even better job developing managers and leaders," says Ballmer. As most rivals sputtered, Microsoft's sales grew 12% in fiscal 2002, to $28.37 billion, and profits climbed 7%, to $7.83 billion. But his masterstroke was winning a federal judge's approval for the settlement of antitrust issues Microsoft negotiated with the Justice Dept.
Colgate-Palmolive (CL )
Increased competition and troubles in big markets--just another year for longtime CEO Reuben Mark. He continued to focus on incremental improvements and cost-cutting. Mark, 63, reported 6% unit volume growth in the third quarter and said 2003 looks good, too.
American International Group (AIG )
Maurice "Hank" Greenberg is 77, but he continues to deploy his formidable energies to good effect. AIG put massive World Trade Center losses behind it--and reported a 61% gain in net income, to $5.6 billion, for the first nine months of 2002.
eBay (EBAY )
By expanding internationally and making bold acquisitions, such as the $1.5 billion purchase of payment processor PayPal Inc., CEO Margaret C. Whitman, 46, kept eBay rolling past the dot-com casualties this year.
Canon (CAJ )
Thanks to Fujio Mitarai, Canon's sharpshooter of a chief executive, the company will report record profits again in 2002. That's despite the recession in Japan. The secret to his success: Mitarai, 67, is constantly whittling down costs while pushing his engineers to develop better products.
Wal-Mart (WMT )
In a moribund economy, discount king Wal-Mart Stores Inc. continued to grab sales and market share. Chief executive H. Lee Scott Jr., 53, will keep the pressure on rivals in 2003 by adding some 465 new stores worldwide and sticking to Wal-Mart's "everyday low price" philosophy.