The Best of 2017 in Business
This year brought heady days for business: Stocks broke records, we got a new iPhone, and cryptocurrencies soared. But 2017 also saw its share of scandals, purges, and reckonings. Here, Fortune’s chronicle of the people, companies, trends, gadgets, hacks, and tweets that mattered most this year.
Biggest Net-Worth Increases
1. Jeff Bezos
Net worth: $98.5 B
The Amazon chief became the world’s richest person this year as his company stock soared.
2. Hui Ka Yan
Net worth: $34.9 B
The real estate tycoon is now China’s richest man.
3. Mark Zuckerberg
Net worth: $72.2 B
Facebook blew past Wall Street expectations in 2017.
4. Bernard Arnault
Net worth: $61.3 B
Luxury was good to the boss of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
5. Pony Ma
Net worth: $39 B
Internet giant Tencent kept up its mega-growth.
Best/Worst Investment, and Wildest Ride: Bitcoin
Investing in Bitcoin is like riding Six Flags’ Kingda Ka. The highs are stratospheric, and the lows will crush you under cheek-flapping g-forces. Late this year the price of one Bitcoin surged past $11,000, up from less than $1,000 on Jan. 1—a 1,000% return. But investors also got a taste of what a bust might feel like when the cryptocurrency lost $1,000 in a span of 10 minutes on Nov. 29. Hope you don’t get queasy. —Robert Hackett
Best Commodities: Industrial Metals
Of all major commodities this year, it was the price of metals (led by zinc) that grew the fastest. Credit strong demand from Chinese industry.
Biggest IPO: SNAP
The maker of Snapchat (SNAP) raised $3.4 billion in its IPO (2017’s largest). But by year-end, 50% of its shares’ peak value had disappeared.
Most Game-Changing New Gadgets: iPhone X, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Key
In first place: the iPhone X, Apple’s latest and greatest mini-supercomputer, with an OLED screen and groundbreaking facial ID. In second, the Nintendo Switch, an ingenious $300 handheld that’s also a TV console. Third? Amazon Key, a service and camera system that lets the Amazon delivery guy inside your house. (How much do you trust Jeff Bezos?) —Aaron Pressman
Biggest Breakup: General Electric
GE’s new CEO, John Flannery, announced plans this October to unload $20 billion in assets of the ailing conglomerate, in a sale that may include two of its oldest divisions: transportation, and the remainder of the lighting business started by Thomas Edison. The onetime icon of American business is 73% smaller than it was in 2000. —Lucinda Shen
Biggest Announced U.S. Mergers*
The pairing of one of the largest drugstores and largest insurers will shake up health care.
* As of Dec. 5, 2017.
Best Damage Control: Sheryl Sandberg
After evidence emerged that the Kremlin used Facebook’s ad machine to promote political division in the U.S.—including a real-life Texas secession rally—COO Sheryl Sandberg went to Washington to reassure Congress that the company cares about the issue. Facebook’s response includes not-so-subtle steps like eliminating the ability to target categories such as “Jew hater” from its ad offerings, and a planned tool that will let users find out if they inadvertently liked or followed Russian propaganda accounts in 2016. Will this be enough to stave off the new regulatory measures Facebook fears? It’s too soon to say if Congress will say da or nyet to the company’s proposed solutions.—Jeff John Roberts
The Year’s Worst Breaches: Equifax, Yahoo, Uber
The most damaging and disturbing corporate data theft revelations of 2017.
146 million: People affected by Equifax breach
For months, a hacker group hoovered up the credit giant’s prized data: including names, birth dates, addresses, and Social Security numbers, in an attack that likely affected almost half the U.S. population.
3 billion: User accounts compromised in Yahoo breach
In October, the tech giant revealed it had underestimated by billions the number of people affected by a 2013 data breach (already the world’s largest), in which thieves stole names, emails, phone numbers, and more.
57 million: People affected by Uber breach
The ride-hailing giant disclosed this year it had engaged in a cover-up: paying hackers $100,000 to keep quiet about a trove of customer data they stole. —Robert Hackett
Best Disaster Response: Gap and TJX
After 2017’s natural disasters in Houston, Puerto Rico, Florida, and California, some companies milked their good works for good PR. But others chose to do the right thing without fanfare. TJX Cos. quietly continued to pay Puerto Rico–based employees of its T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods chains, even while stores were closed (regardless of how long). Gap did the same. —Phil Wahba
Biggest Purge: The Sexual Harassment Tidal Wave
Dozens of powerful men have been credibly accused of sexual harassment (or worse) this year, leading to a cross-industry exodus of leading players in tech, media, and entertainment—including Harvey Weinstein and Tesla board member Steve Jurvetson. Notably, though, the accountability seems to be mostly confined to the private sector—politicians like Alabama Senate-hopeful Roy Moore and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken were also accused of misconduct, but have (so far) not dropped out or resigned. —Valentina Zarya
Best New Jargon: ‘Culture Add’
Reports of toxic work environments at Uber and other tech companies have forced many Silicon Valley startups to rethink their values. What’s out? Hiring for “culture fit,” a.k.a. tech bros recruiting tech bros. What’s in? “Culture add,” or hiring for diversity. Companies like Pandora and Lyft have already adopted the new lingo, but it remains to be seen whether the new HR buzzwords can have real impact on the tech industry’s workforce. —Michal Lev-Ram
Best Tweet: “Help me please. A man needs his nuggs”
Carter Wilkerson’s plea after @Wendys said it would give him a year of free chicken nuggets if he reached 18 million retweets. He set records, with 3.6 million retweets, but still came up short. (Wendy’s gave him the nuggs anyway.)
Best Quote: Elon Musk
Best Market: Argentina
The Dow may have blown past records to top 24,000, but those gains look paltry compared with the 45.3% run-up in Argentina’s Merval index. On top of that, the country’s inflation problems look to be gradually coming under control. Cue an influx of foreign investment. —Anne VanderMey
The Best Stocks of the Fortune 500 This Year
It was a good year for the stock market: The Dow broke records, and the S&P 500 climbed 16% before dividends. For a few companies and investors, though, it was a great year. Here, the large-company stocks in the U.S. that rose the most in 2017.
Shortest-Lived Existential Crisis: United Airlines
United had a so-so year, but the downs were due to low-cost competition—not the viral video of a man being dragged from one of its planes. Despite the mass outrage, United’s stock hit all-time highs a month after the incident. —Tom Huddleston Jr.
Best Bogeyman: Amazon
As Jeff Bezos’s “everything store” expands into, well, everything, skittish investors are punishing companies caught in the crosshairs. After Amazon announced it would buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, grocery chains Kroger, Walmart, Costco, SuperValu, and Target collectively lost $26.7 billion in market value—in a single morning. Even rumors that Amazon might be coming were enough to unsettle whole industries this year. Following reports that the company was hiring people with pharmacy backgrounds, signifying a possible health care play, shares of CVS Health and Walgreens fell over 3%. Amazon’s flirtation with the delivery and auto parts businesses also spooked UPS and Autozone investors. —Jonathan Vanian
Most Riveting Corporate Drama: Uber
One of the defining characteristics of a soap opera is a story that’s too delicious to be true. Wacky, riveting, shocking, titillating? Yes. Completely believable? No.
By that measure, Uber’s 2017 was a soap opera for the ages. An already infamous entrepreneur/CEO starts the year by quitting a presidential council amid furor over the company’s botched response to a taxi boycott spurred by a new President’s policies. A video of the same CEO berating a longtime driver goes viral. An engineer posts a lurid account of sexual harassment. Multiple top executives are jettisoned or otherwise flee. A unit of an early investor (Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving car outfit) sues the company for trade theft. The CEO’s mother dies in a tragic boating mishap. The CEO himself gets the boot.
All this happened to Travis Kalanick and Uber—in the first half of the year.
Then things get worse. Key backer Benchmark Capital sues Kalanick over allocation of board seats. Uber publicly searches for a new CEO as Kalanick meddles. A credible but little-known candidate, Expedia’s Dara Khosrowshahi, takes the top job—only to be forced to reveal a massive hacking attack the company had previously covered up. Oh, and SoftBank offers to invest billions of dollars at a dramatically reduced valuation.
Could 2018 possibly top that? —Adam Lashinsky
Best Movies (Non-Star Wars Category)
The 2017 releases that made the most at the box office:
- Beauty and the Beast: $504,014,165
- Wonder Woman: $412,563,408
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: $389,813,101
Best New Character: Porg
Star Wars: The Last Jedi should drive big toy sales—thanks in no small part to its new alien-penguin hybrid.
Friendliest Fire: Trump Crushes Gun Stocks (With Love)
President Trump took a lot of credit for the hot stock market this year, but there’s one industry whose investors he hurt: guns. Gun sales are often driven by fear of weapons bans (as consumers rush to stock up). Now, under the pro-gun GOP, sales are slumping. American Outdoor Brands’ stock fell nearly 40% this year, and Remington Outdoor faces debt trouble.
A version of this article appears in the Dec. 15, 2017 issue of Fortune.