9. Ford Motor
Fortune 500 rank: 9
Revenues (millions): $136,264.0
CEO: Alan R. Mulally
Alan Mulally, Ford's chief, is credited with gracefully navigating the American icon through one of the most disastrous periods in the U.S. auto industry's history. The former Boeing executive's most important leadership achievement took place when Ford avoided bankruptcy, the tarnishing fate that befell rivals General Motors and Chrysler in 2009. Had Ford been forced to file, the Ford family almost certainly would have lost their controlling interest. The company's stock has resumed paying a dividend during Mullaly’s tenure and, more importantly, the firm is pumping out lust-worthy cars again. Profits jumped 208% last year -- growth in league with the world's oil and tech giants, not other car makers.
Fortune 500 rank: 10
Revenues (millions): $127,245.0
CEO: Margaret C. Whitman
The world's largest computer manufacturer had another shaky year. The company's board ousted CEO Leo Apotheker after barely a year on the job. The troubled technology giant offered the top spot to former eBay boss Meg Whitman. (She had been an HP director as well as a strategic advisor at Kleiner Perkins.)
The move came at a pivotal time for HP, which is still struggling to find a path forward. In her first decisive step, Whitman announced the company would combine two of its biggest divisions, printers and PCs. Whitman is beginning her tenure with a number of other strategic consolidations across business units as well.
[Related: American Tax Havens]
Fortune 500 rank: 11
Revenues (millions): $126,723.0
CEO: Randall L. Stephenson
Having taken a lot of heat about the quality of its wireless network last year, AT&T agreed to pay $39 billion for T-Mobile USA -- a smaller rival that once ran ads ridiculing its service. The combined entity -- which would have allowed AT&T to spread the cost of running a national network over an additional 34 million customers -- didn't manage to pass muster with the government. Now, the company is picking up the pieces -- which includes paying T-Mobile $3 billion in cash as well as access to $1 billion worth of AT&T-held wireless spectrum as per the original acquisition agreement.
12. Valero Energy
Fortune 500 rank: 12
Revenues (millions): $125,095.0
CEO: William R. Klesse
Thanks to higher oil prices, the nation's largest oil refiner has been on the move. Its $730 million purchase of Chevron's Welsh refining operations helped increase its oil output. And, the company stepped up production at a number of its U.S. refineries, a big reason why analysts anticipate double-digit earnings growth in the years ahead.
13. Bank of America
Fortune 500 rank: 13
Revenues (millions): $115,074.0
CEO: Brian T. Moynihan
Bank of America executives may well remember 2011 as the year of the $5 debit fee. To make up for lost revenue due to new bank regulations, the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank instituted a $5 monthly fee for customers using debit cards. The move sparked a consumer revolt, even as other banks followed suit. Just about a month later, BofA succumbed to the pressure and backed off its new fees.
BofA shares took a nosedive in 2011, down 60%, before rebounding earlier this year. The bank still faces a litany of lawsuits, mostly relating to mortgages at its Countrywide business unit. In September the company announced plans to eliminate 30,000 jobs, or 10% of its workforce. So far the cost-cutting seems to be helping -- in the second quarter of this year, Bank of America reported that net income more than doubled from the same period last year.
Fortune 500 rank: 14
Revenues (millions): $112,084.0
CEO: John H. Hammergren
The nation's largest health-care provider continued to dominate, growing 2011 sales to more than $112 billion. Distribution remains McKesson's backbone: A full one-third of all medicines used in the U.S. run through its pipeline. The company also is the dominant player in health care information systems. More than 70% of the nation's big market hospitals use its technology to digitize prescriptions and patient medical records.
15. Verizon Communications
Fortune 500 rank: 15
Revenues (millions): $110,875.0
CEO: Lowell C. McAdam
The second-largest U.S. telecommunications group saw profits buoyed by surging smartphone sales, but its success last year -- including a $10 billion payment to Vodafone, which co-owns Verizon Wireless -- raised hackles with union members. In October, it briefly joined the Occupy Wall Street movement to protest benefit cuts after Verizon announced its profits had doubled from the previous quarter.
16. JP Morgan & Chase Co.
Fortune 500 rank: 16
Revenues (millions): $110,838.0
CEO: James Dimon
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon doesn’t let a little thing like Dodd-Frank get in his way. Dimon called his firm’s 2011 performance “mildly disappointing” after it struggled to find ways to make up for lost revenue from new bank regulations and revenues fell sharply in its investment banking unit. But about six weeks after that year-end report, Dimon closed out a shareholder meeting on a decidedly optimistic note: “I'll be damned if we don't have record profits at least for a while now."
So far, it seems to be playing out just as he predicted. Profits weren’t at record levels earlier this year, but they were much higher than analysts predicted. And revenues grew by 24% in the first quarter, thanks to increased activity in retail banking, home refinance loans, and overall customer deposits.
Fortune 500 rank: 17
Revenues (millions): $108,249.0
CEO: Timothy D. Cook
The company emerged from the tragic passing of co-founder Steve Jobs saddened but in no perceptible way weakened. Under CEO Tim Cook, the company continued pumping out new products -- like a significantly upgraded version of the iPad tablet. Apple nearly doubles its earnings per share in 2011, compared to 2010. That helped nudge management to announce plans for the firm's first dividend since 1995, returning some of the $97.6 billion in cash it had accumulated. Apple fans and analysts alike also continue to await a long-rumored television set from the gadget maker.
18. CVS Caremark
Fortune 500 rank: 18
Revenues (millions): $107,750.0
CEO: Larry J. Merlo
Sales topped $100 billion at the pharmacy giant, but it also faces challenges. The $29.1 billion merger of Express and Medco knocked CVS off its perch as the largest pharmacy benefits operator. It remains to be seen how the company will cope with such robust new competition.
19. International Business Machines
Fortune 500 rank: 19
Revenues (millions): $106,916.0
CEO: Virginia M. Rometty
In one of the most watched transfer of corporate leadership in modern history, IBM's top job went from Sam Palmisano to veteran IBMer Ginni Rometty on the first of the year. The transition capped off one of the company's best years ever, with sales topping $100 billion in 2011. IBM also managed to capture popular culture's attention thanks to Watson, its artificial intelligence program which played Jeopardy! Better yet, Watson beat champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Banner year indeed.
Fortune 500 rank: 20
Revenues (millions): $102,939.0
CEO: Vikram Pandit
Citi chief Vikram Pandit navigated the company through another rocky year for the beleaguered banking industry. The company made solid progress, boosting profits to $11 billion, up 4.4% from the previous year, and reached benchmarks it had set for itself in its consumer businesses. In April, shareholders handed Pandit an embarrassing no confidence vote. About 55% of shareholders rejected a plan to pay him $15 million, though the vote was non-binding.
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