Think about this reality: Simply 500 firms—those on this 12 months’s Fortune 500 checklist, to be exact—produced sufficient income final 12 months to equal two-thirds of all the financial output of the USA. Take into consideration that a minute: simply 500 firms.
These similar American companies bought an astounding $13.7 trillion price of products and companies, a file sum whether or not you measure it in nominal or adjusted for inflation. However focus in on the numbers and also you’ll uncover one thing but extra exceptional: that only a tenth of those firms account for practically half (48%) of that complete income. Sharpen your microscope a bit extra, and also you’ll see that income among the many group are extra concentrated nonetheless—with a mere 40 firms chargeable for 52% of the mixed earnings. Twenty-seven of those family names earned not less than $10 billion of their most up-to-date fiscal 12 months. Six, furthermore, are as wealthy as mighty nations, with not less than $1 trillion in belongings on their stability sheets.
Every year, it appears, America’s greatest firms look increasingly like a set of matryoshka dolls; firms that a era in the past would have been seen as company titans now seem as in the event that they could possibly be swallowed up as noon snacks by the actual behemoths. That’s one of many takeaways from this 12 months’s Fortune 500 rating—the 65th operating of the checklist: The massive are getting larger, and the wealthy are getting richer. And, as Erika Fry explores in a gap essay, there are a bunch of explanation why—from the rise of company ecosystems, to the rising aggressive want for scale, to the power-concentrating impact of knowledge and knowledge expertise.
This similar broad narrative of American enterprise winds via the hundreds of knowledge factors we’ve curated—with some abandon, it might appear—in 45 pages of tables and charts. However maybe extra telling are the implications of that story line—which emerge in every of the options on this concern. Each AT&T (publishing on-line Might 21) and CVS (publishing on-line Might 17) have remade themselves into information-age colossi. The reinvented Ma Bell, writes Fortune’s Geoff Colvin, is relying on huge scale and attain to beat the consequences of old-economy gravity. (It isn’t precisely working.) CVS, for its half, has mixed with Aetna to change into the well being trade’s greatest platypus: a drugstore-insurer-pharmacy profit manager-walk-in clinic. As Shawn Tully stories, buyers aren’t shopping for this one both.
The prize of dimension is driving Occidental Petroleum (No. 167 on the checklist) to purchase Anadarko (No. 237), so it could possibly outcompete Chevron (No. 11) within the oil-rich Permian Basin (learn Jen Wieczner’s well timed story). And it’s driving Wayfair right into a wild, loss-leading gambit for e-commerce domination … within the very old-world realm of couches and cupboards. What’s Wayfair spending so ferociously on? Properly, says Jeffrey O’Brien, the corporate’s 2,300 in-house information geeks ought to offer you a touch.
Knowledge, after all, might assist an organization get to the highest. But it surely might not be sufficient to maintain it there. That’s one other—and way more vital—lesson from this 12 months’s Fortune 500.
Think about the emperor of knowledge itself, Alphabet, which in simply 14 years on the Fortune 500 has leaped from the No. 353 spot (in its erstwhile Google identification) to No. 15 at the moment. However as Beth Kowitt stories in “Google’s Civil Warfare” (publishing on-line Might 17), the search large goes via the form of rising pains that would solely happen within the trendy company period: The corporate’s extremely expert and in-demand workforce—who’ve been the engine of its historic progress—at the moment are vocally difficult the technique set by administration.
Our extremely proficient artwork, picture, and graphics crew helped understand this unfolding story of American enterprise—a story informed within the grandness of the forest and the specificity of every tree—in a collection of journal covers. They embody the quilt we finally ran, created by Fortune’s data graphics editor Nicolas Rapp, which reveals in 500 gleaming golden circles a sphere encompassing the entire.
ILLUSTRATION BY NICOLAS RAPP
Artwork director Josue Evilla commissioned the stylized radio tower illustration by Tavis Coburn, which captures the venerable historical past and outsize ambition of AT&T. To spotlight Jen’s story on Occidental Petroleum, artistic director Peter Herbert labored with Liverpool-based illustrator Justin Metz to supply the beautiful, twisting gasoline pump proven under.
AT&T COVER BY TAVIS COBURN
OCCIDENTAL COVER BY JUSTIN METZ
Karol Gadzala, primarily based in Hamburg, produced the vivid colorscape to showcase Alphabet. And director of images Mia Diehl commissioned our putting cowl of CVS, styled and shot by husband-and-wife duo The Voorhes, in addition to our Wayfair cowl. Within the final, photographer Stephen Lewis and stylist Michele Faro assembled a mélange of dollhouse furnishings right into a “500” that appears oddly trendy and uncomfortable.
ALPHABET COVER BY KAROL GADZALA
CVS COVER BY THE VOORHES
WAYFAIR BY STEPHEN LEWIS; PROP STYLING MICHELE FAR
Stephen Lewis; Prop styling by Michele Far
Every of those pictures, we consider, tells greater than the story of 1 firm. Every provides a snapshot of the entire. Simply as each good story does.
A model of this text seems within the June 2019 concern of Fortune with the headline “The Prize of Measurement.”