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The 10 Biggest CEO Departures Of 2018

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A number of high-profile CEOs from some very large and consequential companies called it quits this year. Some were forced out, some exited having guided their companies to relatively safe harbor, and one unexpectedly passed away. We do not claim to have listed everyone who traded in their seat at the head of the table in 2018, but these are some of the more notable ones.

Kevin Systrom, Instagram

In 2006, while a senior at Stanford University, Kevin Systrom was offered a position at Facebook by the then up-and-coming social media company’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He famously turned Zuck down, electing to stay in school.

Regardless of the declined opportunity, Systrom, 34, wound up at Facebook anyway, but on his own terms. In 2012 he sold his fast-growing photo sharing network, Instagram, to the social media behemoth for about $1 billion, earning himself a $400 million payday based on his then 40% stake.

This September Systrom, Instagram’s CEO, and his cofounder Mike Krieger, announced they would step away from the company amid alleged tensions with Zuckerberg. In staying on with the firm for six years following Instagram’s acquisition, Systrom has been instrumental in cultivating the company’s revenue-generating advertising offerings, as well as its reach with a younger demographic at a time when young people are turning away from Facebook.


Pepsi Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi. Picture: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune

Indra Nooyi, Pepsi

In October big business lost one of its few female CEOs, as Indra Nooyi resigned from Pepsico after a dozen years in the top spot.

Nooyi, 63, who will remain as chairman of Pepsico through the start of 2019, spent 24 years with the company and led the organization as it sought to evolve with a changing food industry that is placing greater emphasis on healthier products. Last year, thanks to her leadership, Pepsico declared that ‘better-for-you’ items accounted for 50% of its offerings.

Despite pushback and criticism from some investors and industry watchers over her emphasis on beefing up Pepsico’s reach in the healthy food category, Nooyi’s results during her tenure overshadow her naysayers: She leaves the company as its annual revenue stands at $63.5 billion—up from $35 billion per year when she began her stint as its CEO in 2006—and Pepsico’s share price has almost doubled in that time.


VW group CEO Matthias Mueller. Picture: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

Matthias Müller, Volkswagen

When Matthias Müller took over as CEO of Volkswagen in 2015, he was installed as a replacement for Martin Winterkorn, on whose watch the company was discovered to have installed software in its vehicles meant to fool emissions testing—a scandal that embarrassed the well-known German automaker and cost the company more than $15 billion in fines and compensation.

This spring, the world’s largest automaker announced that Müller would step down. He was replaced by VW brand manager Herbert Diess.

Under Müller, who had previously been chief executive of VW subsidiary Porsche, Volkswagen invested heavily in the development of electric vehicles and attempted to overhaul the company’s management structure. Under him, the firm retained its title as the world’s largest automaker and saw its profit margins grow.

Müller, who is 64, earned $12 million in compensation last year and last March the Volkswagen board voted to give him a 40% pay raise. Despite his resignation, he will continue to be paid through 2020, when his current contract expires.


Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group. Picture: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs

After 12 years atop the mighty Goldman Sachs, CEO Lloyd Blankfein announced his resignation earlier this year. He was replaced by the firm’s president and COO, David Solomon.

Blankfein, 64, has held several positions within the firm, including vice chairman, president and COO. This year Blankfein placed #47 on Forbes’ list of the world’s Most Powerful People. In a farewell message to his colleagues, he said “When times are tougher, you can’t leave. And, when times are better, you don’t want to leave.”

Sullying Blankfein’s final days at the firm are woeful share prices for Goldman, which are down about 33% from last year, the steepest drop coming this fall in the aftermath of an escalating controversy over allegations that the firm was connected to a conspiracy to launder $2.7 billion from a Malaysian fund several years ago.

Ian Read, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer. Picture: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ian Read, Pfizer

After eight years as the head of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Ian Read announced this year that he will be stepping down as CEO of Pfizer. Read was a company man, joining the pharma giant in 1978 as an operational auditor, and in the years that followed held various positions, including chief financial Officer with Pfizer Mexico, Country Manager in Brazil, president of its International Pharmaceuticals Group, and group president of the Worldwide Bio-pharmaceutical Businesses.

During his tenure as CEO, Read, who is 65, pursued foreign acquisitions to allow Pfizer to avoid U.S. tax penalties. In this Read was unsuccessful, allowing targets like AstraZeneca and Allergan to slip away, while being maligned by U.S. politicians for the effort.

Les Moonves, former CBS CEO. Picture: David McNew/Getty Images

Les Moonves, CBS

CBS’s Les Moonves made headlines this year when a dozen women stepped forwardaccusing the CEO of instances of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault that date back as far as the 1980s, outlined in a series of news media articles. Moonves, 68, denied the allegations. In September CBS’ board forced him out, the latest high-profile entertainment figure to come to ruin through allegations of sexual misconduct.

In December, CBS announced that Moonves would not receive a dime of the $120 million severance package to which he was contractually entitled as an internal investigation into his activities concluded that he had violated company policy. Still, Moonves is far from destitute. The former CEO is worth an estimated $800 million, $500 million of which was earned through the sale of CBS stock.

Sergio Marchionne, former chief executive officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Picture: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sergio Marchionne, Fiat-Chrysler

This summer the auto industry lost a true giant, as Fiat-Chrysler CEO, Sergio Marchionne, passed away at age 66 due to complications following shoulder surgery.

Marchionne’s career highlights include spearheading the resurgence of Fiat and Chrysler—the former he assumed control of as its chief executive in 2004; the latter he worked shrewdly to acquire in 2009, virtually for free after Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy. Today the organizations, merged under his leadership, are worth ten times their value when he took the helm.

Forbes contributor Ed Garsten, who worked with Chrysler before and after Marchionne’s acquisition of the company, remembers the late CEO’s arrival on the scene and the positive boost he gave to his new employees in his initial address at Chrysler. “In the course of about 30 minutes, in his gravelly, accented voice, Marchionne proceeded to say the words that made the past two years seem to disappear,” Garsten writes, “delivering a message of hope, of promise, of winning, that we’re all in it together, punctuated by a bit of philosophy, in Swahili.”

Sir Martin Sorrell, the former chief executive officer of WPP. Picture: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for Advertising Week Europe

Martin Sorrell, WPP

WPP, one of the world’s largest advertising and marketing companies, lost its CEO and founder this year: Martin Sorrell, who ran the company for 33 years.

Sorrell’s departure comes in the wake of mysterious allegations of misconduct that moved WPP’s board to hire an outside law firm to investigate its CEO. The results of the investigation have not been disclosed, but Sorrell later resigned and was replaced by company COO Mark Read.

Sorrell, who is 73 and an icon of entrepreneurship in Britain, acquired WPP in the mid-1980s to act as a holding company for his planned marketing empire. He had previously been the financial director of advertising company Saatchi & Saatchi. His aggressively acquisitive strategy assured fast growth—and debt—for WPP over the years, and last year the conglomerate generated nearly $19.3 billion in revenue. Sorrell himself earned $68 million.

But the business life is not over for Sorrell. Shortly after his resignation from WPP, he set the wheels in motion for his latest venture: a communications services firm named S4.


Brian Krzanich, former Intel CEO. Picture: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Brian Krzanich, Intel

This year Intel celebrated its 50th year in business. It also bid farewell to its CEO of five years, Brian Krzanich, who was dislodged following the revelation that he’d had a consensual relationship with a subordinate colleague, which violated company policy. He was replaced with company CFO Robert H. Swan.

Krzanich, 58, began his career at Intel in 1982 as an engineer at a microchip factory in New Mexico. Over the years he’s held a number of positions with the tech giant, including that of chief operating officer. Krzanich was a member of Donald Trump’s administration’s American Manufacturing Council, a body that included Tesla’s Elon Musk, Under Armour’s Kevin Plank and Michael Dell. He quit the Council in the wake of Trump’s response to the 2017 Unite The Right Rally that left one counter-protestor dead and many others injured.

In November Krzanich announced he had found a new job, assuming the chief executive position of Illinois-based software company CDK Global.


Condé Nast CEO Bob Sauerberg. Picture: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bob Sauerberg, Condé Nast

Condé Nast announced in November that its CEO, Bob Sauerberg, would step down as soon as a suitable replacement is found. The timing of his departure comes just a few months after Sauerberg set down a turnaround strategy for the publishing conglomerate to return to solvency within two years. Condé Nast says it will adhere to Sauerberg’s plans.

Sauerberg’s replacement will assume a more powerful role, one that oversees both Condé Nast and Condé Nast International—two operations traditionally led by different chief executives.

Sauerberg joined the company in 2005 and was named president five years later. He was made CEO in January of 2016 and during his tenure as head of the company launched Condé Nast Entertainment.

-Karsten Strauss

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World’s Highest-Paid Athletes 2019: What Messi, LeBron And Tiger Make

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Major League Baseball had a staggering run this year when, over a four-week period, a quartet of its biggest stars—Nolan Arenado, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Mike Trout—signed blockbuster, long-term deals worth a combined $1.3 billion. They ranked as four of the biggest playing contracts in the history of sports.

The deals will create generational wealth for their families, but only Trout, ranked 17th with $50.6 million, cracks the top 20 of the world’s highest-paid athletes.

The difference: Those four baseball stars generate barely $10 million in combined endorsement income while the top earners in basketball, soccer, tennis and golf all individually bank at least $30 million from sponsors annually; eight of the 11 best-paid athletes come from those four sports.

READ MORE | Lionel Messi Claims Top Spot on Forbes’ 2019 List Of The World’s 100 Highest-Paid Athletes

Most of the athletes ranked above Trout follow a similar path: Reach the highest levels of a global sport, and marketers swarm with endorsement deals to pitch their wares around the world.

Barcelona soccer legend Lionel Messi leads the way on this year’s list with $127 million, including $35 million off the pitch from partners Adidas, MasterCard, PepsiCo and more. Messi translates into every language.

Messi is only the fourth athlete to land in the No. 1 spot over the past 19 years, joining Tiger Woods (12 times), Floyd Mayweather (4) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2).

Messi succeeds Mayweather, who failed to get in the ring for a pro bout over the past 12 months but is likely still counting last year’s $285 million haul, which he earned largely from his 2017 bout against UFC star Conor McGregor.


READ MORE | The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes


Messi is joined by fellow global soccer icons Cristiano Ronaldo ($109 million) and Neymar ($105 million) at the top this year. It is the first time that soccer players have ranked as the top three earners in sports since Forbes began tracking athlete earnings in 1990.

Elite stars in other global sports are also extremely marketable on any continent. Roger Federer ranks fifth with $93.4 million, including $86 million off the court.

Federer will turn 38 in August and is a dinosaur in tennis years. Yet Japanese apparel brand Uniqlo signed the 20-time Grand Slam winner in 2018 to a 10-year contract worth $300 million. Federer has a dozen sponsors looking to tap the cash-rich tennis fan demographic.

Basketball’s leading trio of LeBron James ($89 million), Stephen Curry ($79.8 million) and Kevin Durant ($65.4 million) rank seventh through ninth, having earned a combined $130 million beyond their respective playing salaries.

READ MORE | The NBA’s Highest-Paid Players 2019: LeBron James Leads With $89 Million

Their shoe deals, with Nike (James, Durant) and Under Armour (Curry), are by far the biggest endorsement for each player and dwarf what an MLB player can earn pitching baseball cleats and gear.

Sportswear brands, including Adidas, have used NBA stars in China for more than a decade to help establish a foothold in the world’s biggest market, sending big names like James and Durant there every summer on promotional tours. The NBA estimates 640 million people in China watched some kind of NBA programming during the 2017-18 season—that’s nearly twice the population of the U.S.

Golf is another sport that reaches almost every corner of the globe, and no golfer has benefited more than Tiger Woods: He has made $1.4 billion during his career from endorsements and appearance fees, more than 10 times his prize money, and his net worth is a staggering $800 million. Woods ranks 11th on this year’s athletes list with earnings of $63.9 million, including $54 million off the course.

Tiger roared back over the past 12 months with his first win in five years (Tour Championship) and his first major title in 11 years (The Masters). Last year, he signed an exclusive multi-year global content partnership with Discovery’s GolfTV. Head-to-head matches are part of the deal, and most will take place outside the U.S.

The 100 highest-paid athletes earned a combined $4 billion over the past 12 months, up 5% over the previous year. The increase jumps to 16% if you strip out the one-time stimulus of the 2017 Mayweather-McGregor fight. Endorsements fueled much of the gains, with sponsor-driven income at $987 million, up 12% from the previous year.

Overall, athletes from 10 sports and 25 countries made the top 100. Basketball (35 athletes) is the most dominant sport, and Americans (62) are the most dominant nationality.

READ MORE | Inside Serena Williams’ Plan To Ace Venture Investing

Tennis ace Serena Williams ranked 63rd with $29.2 million, including $25 million off the court. She is the only woman to crack the top 100 for the second time in three years. 

No female athletes qualified last year, when Williams was just returning to tennis after a 12-month layoff for her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter, Olympia. Williams is lining up her next act with a new clothing line and a venture capital fundfocused on investing in female and minority founders.

Our earnings include prize money, salaries and bonuses earned between June 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019. Endorsement incomes are an estimate of sponsorships, appearance fees and licensing incomes for the same 12-month period (click here for a more detailed methodology and the numbers behind the top 100).

-Kurt Badenhausen; Forbes Staff

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Beyoncé And Jay-Z’s Combined Billion-Dollar Fortune Makes Them One Of The Richest Self-Made Couples

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“Got that dinero on my mind,” Beyoncé and Jay-Z wrote on the third track of their surprise album Everything is Love, which came out last June. A year later, it’s clear that the couple wasn’t just taking poetic license: With Jay-Z’s newly minted status as a billionaire and Beyoncé’s place on Forbes’ richest self-made women list, the music moguls are one of America’s wealthiest couples.

It’s been a banner year for the married couple, whose combined net worth now totals an estimated $1.4 billion. Jay-Z, whose steadily growing portfolio of businesses includes liquor, art, real estate and stakes in companies like Uber, is the first hip-hop artist to become a billionaire.

Meanwhile Beyoncé , whose fortune increased to an estimated $400 million from $355 million last year thanks to continued touring and an album release, ranks No. 51 on Forbes 2019 list of America’s most successful self-made women (up two places from last year).

READ MORE | From Beyoncé Knowles-Carter to Kim Kardashian West, America’s Richest Self-Made Women Under 40

Their combined net worth of $1.4 billion makes the music moguls one of the 10 most successful husband-and-wife teams in the country, and certainly the most recognizable.  Unlike many other couples who founded businesses together, they both struck it rich with complementary but separate businesses. Beyoncé’s wealth comes mostly from earnings from touring, music sales and merchandise.

Her husband, on the other hand, amassed most of his wealth from his ownership of Armand de Brignac champagne, investments, his cognac partnership with Bacardi and his own music career, among other sources. Both Beyoncé and Jay-Z have stakes in music streaming service Tidal.

Other entrepreneurial husband-and-wife teams might not be as famous, but their businesses are well known. Do Won and Jin Sook Chang came from South Korea in 1981 in search of better opportunities. “At the time [people in] South Korea weren’t living as well,” Do Won told Forbes in 2016.

READ MORE | Artist, Icon, Billionaire: How Jay-Z Created His $1 Billion Fortune

He worked three jobs as a dishwasher, gas station attendant and office cleaner while she worked in a hair salon. They saved up and in 1984 opened a clothing store. Today they co-own and run Forever 21, a clothing empire with over 815 stores  and $4 billion in sales. Their combined net worth is $3 billion.

Another couple, the Cherngs, found success together through food. Andrew Cherng opened a Chinese restaurant with his father in 1973. His wife Peggy, who had a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and held positions at 3M and the U.S. Navy, gave it all up to help her husband expand the one restaurant into a Chinese fast-food chain. That chain, Panda Express, along with several other fast casual chains the couple owns stakes in, have brought the Cherngs’ combined net worth to $3.4 billion.

Sometimes the strength of a husband-wife partnership comes from their ability to support one another. This was the case for Eren Ozmen and her husband Fatih, the president and CEO team behind aerospace giant Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC).

READ MORE | How Rihanna Created A $600 Million Fortune—And Became The World’s Richest Female Musician

Before they were a couple, Fatih encouraged Eren to pursue an M.B.A. (the couple originally met at Ankara University in Turkey before separately immigrating to the U.S.).

Once they were married, Eren put her business school training to good use by helping automate the financial reports at Fatih’s employer, a then-struggling SNC. Eventually, the couple decided to buy the company and took the business from the verge of bankruptcy to a top military contractor.

While building a vast fortune is rare for couples running businesses together, it has been a winning formula for some women: Nearly one fourth of those on Forbes’ 2019 self-made women list achieved their fortunes through businesses they cofounded with their husbands (though some now are widows or have since divorced).

Below are the 10 wealthiest self-made husband and wife teams in the nation:

1. Tom & Judy Love

Net worth: $5.9 Billion

Tom and Judy Love leased their first gas station in Watonga, Oklahoma, with a $5,000 loan from Tom’s parents. Now Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores has more than 430 locations in 41 states.

LACMA 2018 Collectors Committee Gala
Stewart and Lynda Resnick cofounded The Wonderful Company, which owns Fiji Water and mandarin Halos. STEFANIE KEENAN/GETTY IMAGES FOR LACMA

2.  Lynda & Stewart Resnick

Net worth: $5.6 Billion

The couple are the force behind snack and drink conglomerate the Wonderful Co., known for Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice, Halos mandarin oranges and Fiji water. The couple is also known for philanthropy, giving millions of dollars to educational causes and earning the #29 spot on Forbes’ list of top givers.

Diane Von Furstenberg - Front Row - Spring 2016 New York Fashion Week
Barry Diller (left) and Diane von Furstenberg run their own businesses in separate industries.DIMITRIOS KAMBOURIS/GETTY IMAGES

3. Diane von Furstenberg & Barry Diller

Net worth: $4 billion

Diller is founder, senior executive and chairman at internet and media conglomerate IAC,. His wife Von Furstenberg is the designer and founder of the eponymous fashion label. Diller owns one third of DVF, while Von Furstenberg and her two children from a previous marriage own the rest.  

The Cherngs At Panda Express
Peggy and Andrew Cherng own and run $3.5 billion (sales) Chinese fast-food chain Panda Express. (Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)GETTY

4. Peggy & Andrew Cherng

Net Worth: $3.4

In addition to fast-food chain Panda Express, the Cherngs also own stakes in Urbane Cafe, Just Salad, Uncle Tetsu, Pieology and Ippudo.

5. Jin Sook & Do Won Chang

Net Worth: $3 billion

The Changs’ clothing retailing business is all in the family—the couple’s nieces work at the company as do their daughters, who launched Forever 21’s beauty brand Riley Rose.

PENCE SPACE SYMPOSIUM
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (center) joins Sierra Nevada co-founders Eren and Fatih Ozmen at the 34th Space Symposium. MATHEW STAVER/© 2018 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP

6. Eren & Fatih Ozmen

Net Worth: $2.8 billion

The Ozmens built their defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. through a series of some 20 acquisitions. Describing their strategy, Eren told Forbes  last year:  “Our guys go hunting, and they bring me this giant bear and say, ‘Now you do the skinning and clean it up.’ ”

7.Neerja Sethi & Bharat Desai

Net worth: $2.4 billion

Sethi and Desai cofounded IT consulting and outsourcing firm Syntel out of their Troy, Michigan, apartment in 1980. In October 2018, French IT company Atos SE bought Syntel for $3.4 billion.

8. Weili Dai & Sehat Sutardja

Net Worth: $2 billion

The couple headed semiconductor company Marvell Technology for 11 years until they were forced out as a result of an internal accounting investigation in 2016. Neither was found guilty of any fraudulent activity. The couple has diversified their investments into real estate and technology.

9. Kit Crawford & Gary Erickson

Net Worth: $1.8 billion

The couple behind Clif Bar met at Erickson’s bakery, where Crawford was working part-time. They each have a 40% stake in the company.

10. Beyoncé & Jay-Z

    Net Worth: $1.4 billion

The musicians have shown distinct business savvy, giving users of Tidal, the music streaming service the couple partially owns, exclusive access to their albums.

-Catherine Perloff; Forbes Staff

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Lionel Messi Claims Top Spot on Forbes’ 2019 List Of The World’s 100 Highest-Paid Athletes

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Forbes today released its annual ranking of the World’s 100 Highest-Paid athletes, who collectively earned $4 billion over the last 12 months, up 5% from last year’s earnings of $3.8 billion. 

Lionel Messi was named the world’s highest-paid athlete for the first time, up from second place last year, with $127 million in total earnings.

Messi unseats Floyd Mayweather, who held the crown last year, and was the leader four times in seven years. Behind Messi is longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo (No. 2), who earned $109 million between his salary and endorsements. 

READ MORE | How Rihanna Created A $600 Million Fortune—And Became The World’s Richest Female Musician

Serena Williams (No. 63) returned to the ranking, after no women appeared in 2018. Cost of admission to the 2019 list is the highest ever at $25 million, up $2.1 million from the previous year. Endorsement income experienced an increase of 12.5% to $987 million this year.

“The global impact of soccer is clearly reflected in earnings in 2019, with the top three athletes on the list being Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar,” said Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor, Forbes Media.

“But basketball players continue to dominate the top 100 overall with 35 athletes on the list earning a total of $1.29 billion, with 72% of that income coming from salaries rather than endorsement deals.”

READ MORE | Artist, Icon, Billionaire: How Jay-Z Created His $1 Billion Fortune

The list of elite athletes consists of players from ten different sports. NBA stars lead with 35 basketball players among the top 100, down from 40 in 2018, headed by LeBron James (No. 8 with $89 million).

Football was the next most-represented sport with 19 players, followed by baseball with 15, and soccer with 12.

There are 25 different countries represented on this year’s World’s Highest-Paid Athletes list, up from 22 in 2018. Americans dominate the action with 62 athletes thanks to the sky-high salaries in the major sports leagues.

The U.K. has five athletes, France and Spain have three, while Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Serbia and Venezuela all have two.

Methodology: 

Our earnings include prize money, salaries and bonuses earned between June 1, 2018 and June 1, 2019. Endorsement incomes are an estimate of sponsorships, appearance fees and licensing incomes for the same 12-month period based on conversations with dozens of industry insiders. We do not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees, and we don’t include investment income.

The World’s Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes in 2019:

RankAthleteSportSalary/Winnings ($mil)Endorsements ($mil)Total Earnings ($mil)
1Lionel MessiSoccer9235127
2Cristiano RonaldoSoccer6544109
3NeymarSoccer7530105
4Canelo AlvarezBoxing92294
5Roger FedererTennis7.48693.4
6Russell WilsonFootball80.5989.5
7Aaron RodgersFootball80.3989.3
8LeBron JamesBasketball365389
9Stephen CurryBasketball37.84279.8
10Kevin DurantBasketball30.43565.4

-Forbes Corporate Communications; Forbes Staff

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