41 // Rob Wiesenthal
Group Executive, SONY Corporation
AGE: 40

While Sony chairman and CEO Howard Stringer is busy in Tokyo, Rob Wiesenthal, his top lieutenant at the world’s biggest electronics and media company, gets to run the show in the United States. Not surprising, since some speculate that Stringer is grooming Wiesenthal as his successor. As Barry Diller says, “Rob is smart and seasoned, a great executive.” In his current post, Wiesenthal is able to keep his hands in everything—he’s delivered solid profits in Sony’s music, games, and movie businesses—and his name out of the press. “Rob is relatively egoless and extraordinarily practical,” media deal-maker Nancy Peretsman of Allen & Co. told Crain’s New York Business. “He’s always focused on the outcome.” Wiesenthal couldn’t avoid being big news in 2004, when he was instrumental in assembling a coalition of investors to back Sony’s acquisition of MGM. The deal, which put Sony in charge of MGM’s 4,000-film library (including the lucrative James Bond franchise) while carrying only some $250 million of the $5 billion total cost, is considered one of the slickest in years. And now Sony is expected to buy out its investment partners, setting the stage for a spinoff of the company’s entertainment assets. One way or another, it seems, Wiesenthal will get his CEO title.

42 // Kanye West
Rapper, Producer
AGE: 29
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 15

Since publicly flogging George “Doesn’t Care About Black People” Bush, Kanye West has done his best to keep his mouth shut. In so doing, West ensured he’s not the controversial figure he was last year; now everybody, including him, can get back to focusing on what made him matter in the first place: great music. West has recorded a new album, Graduation, helped out on former boss Jay-Z’s comeback, and shepherded a slew of projects on his G.O.O.D music label, including an album by Fonzworth Bentley, Diddy’s former valet. West’s stolen not only Puff’s manservant but also his role as impresario, complete with his own fashion line launching this fall. But fear not, West’s temper and tirades aren’t gone. “The assumption is there’ll be give and take, and people will play nice,” says John Legend, whose second West-produced album comes out this month. “Kanye doesn’t follow those rules. He’s more passionate about getting it right than about making everyone happy.”

43 // Netroots Nurturers
Eli Pariser, Executive Director, MoveOn.Org
Age: 25
Markos Moulitsas, Proprietor, DailyKos.com
Age: 35

For years, right-wingers have dominated every known form of communication. But it’s liberals who own the new form: Their online movement takes its marching orders from Markos Moulitsas. He’s the spiritual blog-father of the left, helping set the agenda for the legion of smart writers who harry the GOP at every turn—he even held a packed convention in Las Vegas this year. Meanwhile, leading the fund-raising and campaigning wing of the wired liberals is MoveOn.org. The group’s failure to defeat Bush in 2004 has only emboldened it. MoveOn’s membership has grown by half a million and it’s on track to raise $25 million this year to take back both houses of Congress. Strangely, its big victim so far is a Democrat: By mobilizing support for antiwar challenger Ned Lamont, MoveOn helped cripple Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman in a primary. Now can it inflict damage on . . . the other side? “The Republicans are scared shitless,” insists Eli Pariser. So are the Democrats.

44 // John E. Sununu
United States Senator
AGE: 42

John E. Sununu’s home turf, New Hampshire, is the proving ground for presidential candidates—and with the race for the 2008 nomination already heating up, the senator’s about to be one of the most courted men in the GOP. The son of the White House chief of staff under George H.W. Bush, Sununu won his Senate seat in 2002, at just 38. Now he’s rubbing elbows with the Google guys, working on sweeping telecom legislation, and sitting on the Banking and Foreign Relations committees. He even joined with (gasp) Democrats in a recent filibuster on the renewal of the Patriot Act. “He understands that the greatest enemy of a democracy is stalemate,” says Jack Valenti, Hollywood’s longtime advocate on Capitol Hill. “He’s a new breed of a national leader.” Not bad for the youngest guy in the Senate.

45 // Kiefer Sutherland
Actor
AGE: 39

Once upon a time, Kiefer Sutherland was just another Brat Packer, and not even the first of Julia Roberts’ many fiancés. Then he was an ex–Hollywood Somebody, competing in rodeos—yes, the kind with bulls—until a badass role on a certain real-time Fox drama came calling. “Here you had a guy sort of like a post-9/11 superhero,” says Ben Mandelker, cofounder of the television blog TVgasm.com. “An everyday guy, a tough guy, and he was going to save the day. The combination of the format and this great character with the intensity of Kiefer Sutherland is a powerhouse that you can’t deny.” One hundred twenty hours of television later, Sutherland is reputedly the small screen’s highest-paid dramatic actor. In June, a reported $40 million three-year contract kicked in with Fox, giving him the title of series executive producer and a hefty development deal for his just-off-the-ground production company. There’s even more at stake in Jack Bauer’s next assignment: Sutherland is in talks to make a movie version of 24, with cameras rolling as early as next spring.

46 // Shane McMahon
Executive Vice President of Global Media, WWE
AGE: 36

Doubt the power of men in tights? Advertisers scoffed too, until they saw that Shane McMahon (Vince’s son) and the WWE have the “elusive male” in a hammerlock. “Shane is completely in touch with the action that keeps young guys coming back for more,” says Bonnie Hammer, president of the USA Network. Monday Night RAW is ensconced as the top-rated show on basic cable, and among men 18 to 34, SmackDown stands as the highest-rated Friday-night show in all of television. A CD of its wrestlers’ themes debuted at No. 8 and WWE.com gets more than 14 million unique visitors a month. Now the WWE is shown in 130 countries. “The story makes language irrelevant,” McMahon says. “It’s ‘Who’s the good guy? Who’s the bad guy? One-two-three, who’s the winner?’” Consider that McMahon mixes it up in the ring and writes the scripts, then guess who to bet on.

47 // Howard Wolfson
Political Consultant
AGE: 39

Hillary Clinton may or may not become the first woman president. But one thing is certain: The junior senator from New York already has her Karl Rove. As the communications director in her 2000 senatorial campaign, Howard Wolfson faced down a national opposition and daily accusations of carpetbagging, not to mention all sorts of other baggage. “He’s one of the best strategic thinkers in the Democratic party,” says Josh Wachs, former COO of the DNC. “To be able to deal with the incredible media scrutiny of that race—few people could handle that assignment.” Since then, the man Clinton calls Wolffie has repositioned her as a pragmatic moderate and helped as much as anyone—except perhaps her husband—to make her the presumptive frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Also noteworthy: Wolfson’s prominent consulting firm, the Glover Park Group, represents clients ranging from the United Federation of Teachers to the government of Turkey to Rupert Murdoch. Hmmm, so that explains that Murdoch fund-raiser for Clinton last summer.

48 // The Hollywood Agents
Patrick Whitesell, Partner, Endeavor
AGE: 41
Jay Sures, Board Member, Partner, UTA
AGE: 39
Chris Silbermann, CoPresident, ICM
AGE: 38

It typically takes decades before an agent attains a level of celebrity rivaling that of his clients, in the eyes of Hollywood. These three power brokers all reached that point in their 30s. Patrick Whitesell has a lock on young stars like Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Jude Law. (His wedding to Lauren Sanchez, former host of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, became such a high-profile social event that people reportedly lobbied for invitations.) Jay Sures oversees the packaging of UTA clients—producers, writers, actors—for franchises like CSI and shows like Six Feet Under and The Sopranos. Likewise, Chris Silbermann’s boutique agency, Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann, fetched a reported $70 million price tag when it was bought this summer by old-guard firm ICM. BWCS represented the creators and producers of shows like Grey’s Anatomy and My Name Is Earl; now Silbermann will also serve as co-head of worldwide TV, giving ICM instant cred in prime time. The deal even made Silbermann copresident with the legendary fixer Ed Limato, who could give these hungry tyros a few pointers on the art of making a name for yourself.

49 // Marc Ecko
Chairman, Marc Ecko Enterprises
AGE: 34
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 46

After selling $1.2 billion worth of rhinoceros-embossed urbanwear to both city kids and their suburban imitators in 2005, Marc Ecko—himself a suburban wannabe—added some serious street cred by punking all the president’s men. In a promotion for his first video game, Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, Ecko appears to be spray-painting still free on Air Force One. The video, which included hooded graffiti artists scaling barbed-wire fences, was so realistic that the Air Force felt compelled to inspect its plane. Gotcha. In one deft act of guerrilla marketing, Ecko put himself on the leading edge of the graffiti craze, created buzz for the coming movie adaptation of his game (think there’ll be any product placement?), and, most important, surpassed the rhino as the audacious, recognizable face of his brand.

50 // Dane Cook
Comedian
AGE: 34

Becoming the It comic is an accomplishment in itself, but it pales in comparison with Dane Cook’s other shtick: harnessing the social-networking power of the Internet to become its first organically grown superstar. After toiling on the club circuit, Cook posted clips and links to his slickly designed DaneCook.com on MySpace just as the networking site was launching in 2003. More than 1.4 million “friends” later, Cook is a Gen-Y phenomenon without peer. Thanks to these legions, Cook routinely sells out concerts. His second album, Retaliation, debuted at No. 4 and has gone on to become the best-selling comedy album since Steve Martin’s Wild and Crazy Guy in 1978. Now Cook is basking in the multi-million-dollar glow of a deal with HBO, which ran his on-the-road show, Tourgasm, and aired his stand-up special, Vicious Circle, this summer. And he landed his first major movie role in Employee of the Month, which opens October 6. Still, Cook’s greatest talent is ensuring his talents get noticed. “Dane is a marketing genius,” says HBO’s senior VP of original programming, Nancy Geller. “We’re in a new media world, and he was one step ahead of everyone else in embracing that.” As any great comedian will tell you, timing is everything.