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The 25 Most Important Private Companies

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The companies were selected based on a combination of factors: their prodigious revenues or assets, their social currency, their deep connection to our daily lives, and (particularly for the newer and smaller companies), their disruptive impact.

For more on the 25 Most Important Private Companies, see "Companies Find a New Allure in Going Private."


By Erika Fry, Leigh Gallagher, Vivian Giang, Erin Griffith, Robert Hackett, Mathew Ingram, John Kell, Beth Kowitt, Adam Lashinsky, Michal Lev-Ram, Sy Mukherjee, Brian O’Keefe, and Christopher Tkaczyk

Fortune has long celebrated the achievements of massive publicly-held corporations in lists such as the long-running Fortune 500. Today, as even super-hot startups forgo IPOs (at least for now), and some public behemoths turn private, the time has come to recognize the hugely significant contributions of those corporations that choose not to sell their stock to the public.

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Vanguard | Fidelity (tie)

CEO Bill McNabb of Vanguard (left) and Abigail Johnson, CEO of Fidelity
Courtesy of Vanguard and photo by Stuart Darsch

Consider this figure: $5 ­trillion. That’s how much Vanguard Group and Fidelity Investments collectively manage, according to the companies’ most recent figures. It’s no exaggeration to say that the financial ­security of millions of Americans rests heavily on these two behemoths.

Fidelity is the largest provider of 401(k) and related retirement-plan services, and it long thrived with actively managed mutual funds and star managers. Vanguard has always been the omega to ­Fidelity’s alpha—and in recent years it surpassed its rival in assets under management (Vanguard now oversees $3 trillion). Vanguard’s founder, John Bogle, of course, was the avatar of low-fee, passively managed index funds (and later ETFs). Bogle’s philosophy has become so popular that it has reshaped an entire generation of investors and eventually pushed even Fidelity to follow Vanguard’s lead and offer its own index funds.

Company Info

CEO William McNabb (Vanguard); Abigail Johnson (Fidelity)
HQ location Malvern, Pa. (Vanguard); Boston (Fidelity)

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