CEO, Gree Electric Appliances, 62
As the Chinese economy cooled, domestic air conditioner sales also caught a chill. Last year, Gree—the country’s largest air conditioning manufacturer—saw revenue plunge by 29%, to $15.9 billion. But Dong Mingzhu, Gree’s ultraconfident chairwoman and president, had a strategy to diversify the company’s offerings that began with a mobile phone. Gree Phone 1—a smartphone equipped with air conditioner and home security control systems—was touted by the chairwoman as “unbreakable for three years.” Despite Dong’s insistence that the phone would sell hundreds of millions of units and compete with Xiaomi, the Gree Phone 1 never made it to shelves in 2015. Instead, the company launched the Gree Phone 2 this past June—and now plans to build green vehicles. But until the numbers can speak for themselves, Dong won’t be moving up on our list.