A magazine called Business TN has offered up it's annual list of the 100 Most Powerful Tennesseans. Making lists like this says much more about the magazine than it does Tennessee, though the list is worth pondering on its own. Most of those named have been in politics or business for decades which indicates that although some changes in leadership have occurred, things do not change much or change quickly in Tennessee.
Here's their Top Ten:
10 | Tommy Frist
Co-founder • Hospital Corporation of America
Co-founder of HCA, for profit hospitals, and the key figure in Nashville’s identity as a global health care nexus (the city’s largest industry). Recently took company through its second leveraged buyout in its history, a $21 billion deal trumping all previous LBOs on Wall Street. Likely to steer public again in five years. Patriarch of one of Nashville’s wealthiest and most influential families who are among city’s greatest living philanthropists.
9 | Vicky Gregg
President & CEO • BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
Leads Tennessee’s largest health insurer, recently selected to partner with the state and small business employers to provide health care insurance to working Tennesseans in the state’s new Cover Tennessee health care program. Expanding company through new subsidiaries—electronic health records and health management programming—forging the “New Blue.” Member, federal Commission on Systemic Interoperability, part of the Medicare Modernization Act. Overseeing $225 million-plus Chattanooga headquarters construction.
8 | James “Big Jim” Haslam II
Chairman • Pilot Corp.
Founded state’s second largest private company, co-owner of the largest operator of highway travel plazas in America and the largest seller of over-the-road diesel fuel. Company employs over 13,000 in 40 states and recently expanded footprint to Canada. Top Tennessee political fundraiser and currently (he is retiring soon) the most powerful University of Tennessee trustee (who gave school $34 million gift last year). Boards include First Horizon and Ruby Tuesday.
7 | John Petersen
President • University of Tennessee system
Chief operating officer of geographically diverse, well-staffed, multi-facility University of Tennessee system, making him a rare example of a person whose power is scattered from border to border in Tennessee. Now a few years in the position, and with a bold new strategic mission in place, Petersen is a person whose power is escalating fast as he emerges fully as a voice in statewide political and business circles.
6 | Ron Ramsey
Lt. Gov. • State of Tennessee
Blountville Republican who this year amassed the votes needed to at long last topple longtime Tennessee Lt. Gov. John Wilder from his Senate Speaker post. Vast new powers include selecting committee heads, determining the path of Senate legislation and serving as a roadblock to Gov. Phil Bredesen’s legislative agenda where deemed necessary by the GOP. Also appoints (or chooses not to re-appoint) citizen members to influential state boards and commissions.
5 | Jimmy Naifeh
House Speaker • Tennessee House of Representatives
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Amid political shake-up in the state Senate and U.S. Congress, Naifeh remains the iron fist of the Democrats in the state House, recently re-elected to his historic ninth term as Speaker. Covington lawmaker very seldom shares power with Republicans, wielding his legislative axe quietly but powerfully, using subcommittees to kill rival bills.
4 | Martha Ingram
CHAIRMAN • Ingram Industries
Matriarch of the over $2 billion Ingram family fortune. Chairman, Nashville-based Ingram Industries, a multi-billion dollar diversified private company among the largest in Middle Tennessee. Majority stockholder of Ingram Micro, the world’s largest technology products distributor, which she spun off. Arts benefactor extraordinaire who most recently chaired the fund-raising effort that culminated in the new $123.5 million downtown Nashville Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Boards include Vanderbilt and Weyerhauser.
3 | Fred Smith
Founder, chairman & CEO • FedEx Corp.
World-renowned businessman who created not just an industry in overnight air cargo delivery but also the ultimate economic magnet for Memphis by siting his operations there, making it the distribution/logistics/shipping capital of the world. As such, the Bluff City is home to an ever-increasing gaggle of smart companies that want to take competitive advantage of the direct connection Memphis offers to the global marketplace.
2 | J.R. “Pitt” Hyde Jr.
Chairman & CEO • Hyde Family Foundations
Founded retail auto parts giant AutoZone. Prime mover (largest local owner) attracting NBA’s Grizzlies to Memphis, fulfilling city’s dream of a pro sports franchise. Safeguarded city amid recent proposal (which fizzled) by prospective new team owners. Recent reports say Hyde may now buy the team outright. Board member FedEx and GTx, a public biotechnology company he founded, the poster child for city’s biotech push. Founding board member, Memphis Bioworks Foundation.
1 | Phil Bredesen
Governor • State of Tennessee
Won all 95 counties in November election, capturing the most votes by a gubernatorial campaign in state history—70%. Facing state Senate now fully under GOP control; but he’s armed with a clear mandate and the second term freedom to burn political capital where necessary. Terminated TennCare as we know it. Established statewide pre-K. Now working to hike the cigarette tax (raising $220 million for education), ban public smoking, buy up forestland, invest in alternative fuels research and implement his novel small business friendly health insurance program. Could end his term in office considered Tennessee’s most powerful governor ever.
The full list and article is here.