Sam Walton

Sam Walton

$140B

Sam Walton didn't invent the idea of the discount store, he just perfected it. His embrace of information technology and supply-chain management allowed him to dramatically undercut his competitors and remains a model for how to blend old and new economies. At a Wal-Mart store, cash registers are electronically linked to headquarters and suppliers. The chain, which is by far the biggest retailer in the world, has been universally blamed for killing mom-and-pop stores but, perhaps more significantly, it has left more dollars in shoppers' wallets and spurred an economy that is 66% dependent on consumer spending. The chain is America's largest employer, giving work to more than 1.3 million people. If Walton were still alive, his personal fortune would far outstrip Bill Gates Bill Gates : His heirs now split a fortune worth more than $100 billion.

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