By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
June 7, 2017

Flipping through the pages of the Fortune 500, which we release online Wednesday and in its hefty print glory soon, I came across a startling statistic. The company with the best total return to shareholders over the previous decade is Priceline. The former punchline of an Internet company, the Web 1.0 flameout best known for hiring William Shatner as its spokesman, racked up a whopping 42.1% average annual return in the 10 years since 2016.

I knew Priceline had been rejuvenated, largely on the strength of its ownership of European giant Booking.com and despite the decline of its novel name-your-price offering. But I hadn’t realized just how astoundingly well Priceline had performed. It is the 53rd largest company on the 500 by market capitalization (at $87.5 billion at the end of March) and No. 268 by sales, our traditional metric for ranking on the list.

How did Priceline do it? For an answer I asked Mark Mahaney, the RBC Capital Markets analyst who has followed it-and recommended it-for more than 10 years. Priceline turned in “very, very consistent revenue growth-20%-plus year-over year for 40 straight quarters,” he told me, “driven by a trillion-dollar-plus market opportunity, excellent execution in terms of building out a 1-million-plus lodging unit supply base and in terms of mastering marketing channels like Google.” What’s most impressive about Priceline, Mahaney enthused, is what the company didn’t have.
“Without Google’s technology advantage or Facebook’s network effects, Priceline created market cap growth the old-fashioned way: operational excellence.”

Want to know more about Priceline’s progress? Watch for coverage of the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, July 17-19. I’ll be interviewing the company’s CEO, Glenn Fogel, there.

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When I finish a book that makes an impression, I feel like mentioning it here. Though he needs no help with book sales from me, I highly recommend J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, which I breezed through over the last couple weeks of travel. On the one hand, this is merely a memoir by an average American who’s made an above-average success of himself, traveling from a broken home in the heartland to being a Marine in Iraq, a Yale Law School student, and a venture capitalist in Peter Thiel’s orbit. But Vance’s early-life autobiography is more than that. It’s an account of an America few in Silicon Valley and other tracts of precious real estate know or understand.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

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