The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Oct 2011

13. Stephen Kaufer

Terrifies Hotel owners

Once upon a time, guidebook writers decided with a keyboard stroke which hotels, lodges, restaurants, and destinations thrived or died. Now we all do. That’s largely thanks to Stephen Kaufer, 49, a Harvard computer-science major and software developer who recognized the power of the crowd. In 2000, he brought Amazon­.com’s customer-review model to the travel ­industry with Trip­Advisor. Since then, the company has added ratings for airlines and vacation rentals, mobile apps, and a flight meta-search ­engine. The design is archaic, but that doesn’t stop 50 million people in 30 countries from visiting Trip­Advisor sites every month, making it the world’s largest online travel platform. (Meanwhile, sales of travel guidebooks plummet by about 10 percent each year.) The influence is undeniable: a cottage industry of reputation-management firms has emerged to shape hotel reviews.

By the Numbers 25: new reviews posted on TripAdvisor every minute

Second Opinion “It changed everything,” says Christopher Elliott, the reader advocate for National Geographic Traveler and cofounder of the Consumer Travel Alliance. “It’s a problematic thing to have so much power. Now hotels design their entire social-media strategy based on TripAdvisor.”

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14. Sandy Bodecker

Worries Surf companies

Phil Knight is still the king at Nike, but 59-year-old Sandy Bodecker, a former ski racer, makes our list for pushing the Swoosh’s juggernaut into the action-sports realm. First, in the nineties, he transformed Nike into a major player in soccer, investing heavily in national-team sponsorship, which helped lead to revenues in excess of $1.7 billion. Then, a decade ago, he headed a successful push into skateboarding. Now Bodecker hopes to establish Nike as the market leader in the realms of skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, BMX, and motocross. He’s off to a good start: His revamped action-sports division pulled in $470 million through August, making it one of the company’s fastest-growing sectors. In June, Nike unveiled “The Chosen,” the company’s “Just Do It” campaign for action sports. And in July, Nike surfer Carissa Moore, then 18, became the youngest woman to clinch the ASP women’s title.

By the Numbers 27.6 percent: portion of the action-sports-footwear market Nike reportedly controls

Second Opinion “In ten years, Nike could own the whole action-sports category,” says Peter Townend, 1976 ASP world champion and former publisher of Surfing magazine. “Nobody outside of the surf business has ever been in the game before. The cartel is freaked out—the Quiksilvers, Billabongs, and Rip Curls.”

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15. Jeff Skoll

Bankrolls films that matter

Hollywood is squeamish when it comes to trying new things (for proof, see last summer’s Thor, The Green Hornet, and X-Men: First Class). So when a script comes along dealing with social issues or the environment, the man you want to get a meeting with is Jeff Skoll, 46, whose Participant Media funds the untouchable message movies the rest of Holly­wood laughs at. Skoll, the first president of eBay, made roughly $2 billion after cashing in his stock in the early 2000s. In 2004, the Ontario ­native launched Participant Media with a freshman slate of movies including Syriana, Murderball, North Country, and Good Night, and Good Luck, which combined garnered 11 Oscar nods. Follow-ups have included a few titles you might find familiar: An Inconvenient Truth; Food, Inc.; and The Cove, the graphic documentary about Japanese dolphin harvesting that won the 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Skoll has dumped hundreds of millions into Participant and doesn’t ­expect it back. (His Skoll Foundation is equally generous, having given $168 million in grants to social entrepreneurs.) Participant recently optioned a story about the Deepwater ­Horizon spill, released this summer’s The Help, and is producing a film about Bobby Martinez, a gang member who went on to ­become a surfing world champ.

By the Numbers 35: films ­Participant Media has financed;
18: Oscar nominations those films have received

Second Opinion “To most of Hollywood, movies are ten dollars and a box of popcorn, but to Jeff Skoll they are a way to change the world,” says Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove. “Hollywood thinks ‘butts in seats’—he thinks ‘minds in seats.’ ”

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16. John Fahey

Sets the standard for the world’s doping cops

Dick Pound, the loudmouthed first president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), was a tough act to follow, but John Fahey, the former Australian finance minister, has done just fine. Since taking over WADA in November 2007, the 66-year-old has pushed hard for government cooperation in countries like China and Russia, shone the light on uncooperative organizations like Major League Baseball, and made efforts to start anti-doping education in youth sports. WADA doesn’t so much prosecute dopers as set a standard used by other agencies, such as the International Olympic Committee and the UCI, cycling’s governing body. But Fahey’s most important contribution might be developing partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. Outfits like Glaxo-SmithKline allow WADA access to confidential data on compounds still under development, so the doping cops can keep up in the ever-escalating performance-enhancement arms race. It might not be as sexy as taking down Balco, but building a science-based detection system and getting leagues and governments on board is much bigger, and much more difficult.

By the Numbers $26 million: WADA’s annual operating budget

Second Opinion “John has solidified relationships with Interpol, world trade and customs agencies, and the pharmaceuticals industry,” says Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “From a global perspective, those achievements have been huge, have had immediate results, and will have a long-term impact on the fight for clean athletes.”

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17. John Mackey

Decides What’s for dinner

The most incredible thing about John Mackey is that he’s still the head of Whole Foods. In the past few years, the Austin-based chain’s cofounder has been dinged by the SEC for creepy comments he made anonymously on a stock website and has aired anti-union views in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that caused his progressive customer base to retch. Meanwhile, “Whole Paycheck” suffered so much during the recession, Mackey had to sell large chunks of the store to outside investors. But it has roared back to profitability, with $9 billion in sales in 2010, meaning the 57-year-old vegan is still the dominant force in the natural-food movement. His decisions (and whims) determine which meats, fruits, and energy bars go on shoppers’ shelves. Case in point: in 2003, when an activist complained about the way the chain’s fresh duck was produced, Mackey researched factory farming and completely overhauled the line. This January, he instituted a policy of labeling GMO products—but also refused to ban goods from Monsanto. Which means you could be buying their stuff.

By the Numbers 2,400: products Whole Foods stocks;
19: companies Mackey has bought out

Second Opinion “Whole Foods has standards for what ingredients they allow, and that can have a huge impact on the market,” says John Gay, executive director and CEO of the Natural Products Association. “Some companies tailor their products just to get into Whole Foods.”

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