2007 Mavericks

Details anoints the 27 agents of change who are bending the future to their will. Plus: a glimpse into the lifestyles of the brilliant and innovative.

President, ABC Entertainment
Stephen McPherson lives by risk-reward scenarios. The former Wall Street trader made the most daring play of the season by pulling Grey’s Anatomy out of its comfy post–Desperate Housewives time slot, sliding it to Thursday nights and pairing it with an adaptation of a Colombian telenovela retitled Ugly Betty. The dividends? ABC won the November sweeps for the first time in seven years, as Betty became the season’s breakout hit and Grey’s ratings surged. “We hadn’t been competitive on Thursdays since Mork and Mindy“ McPherson says. “Now we’re winning the most important night of the week.“ His chutzpah works both ways: He’s quick to own up to mistakes, yanking the Heather Graham series Emily’s Reasons Why Not after one episode and Lost creator J.J. Abrams’ ballyhooed Six Degrees after six episodes (though it is slated to return, retooled). And McPherson has freely taken his lumps over Lost’s fragmented schedule, but it was part of another ballsy trade-off: “We’ll run 22 straight episodes next year,“ he promises. And he’s looking to split his stock, greenlighting a Grey’s spin-off he hopes will make ABC must-see TV for years to come. “I still look at us as the scrappy underdog,“ McPherson says. “It’s like a never-ending playoff series with no championship to win.“
Director of Business Development, Starbucks Entertainment
For many of its 44 million customers, Starbucks is the café experience, offering a distinct and reliable level of taste and quality—not just in java but also in entertainment. Nikkole Denson is the mastermind behind Starbucks’ increasingly eclectic forays into cultural content. “People know they can depend on us—no matter what it is,“ she says. “If it’s a new artist they have never heard of, they take a chance.“ And she’s not just talking about the ubiquitous CD racks: Denson made her own leap of faith last year when she struck a deal with Lionsgate to promote the movie Akeelah and the Bee, which became a surprise indie success. She hopes to repeat that trick this year by putting Starbucks behind one or two select projects. “We don’t have a strict set of criteria,“ Denson says. “We know it when we see it, or read it, or hear it—but we want to support people with something to say.“ Clearly the company’s imprimatur works for publishers too: More than 95,000 copies of Mitch Albom’s For One More Day were sold at Starbucks locations last year. Could the chain be acting purely out of goodwill? “Success isn’t a hard dollar amount, necessarily,“ Denson explains. “That’s less important than the effect we’re having on our customers’ lives.“ And on a few industries.
Founder and CEO, Reveille
It seems no one told Ben Silverman that we live an age of specialization. Professionally speaking, the agent turned producer is willing to embrace any medium (network TV, cable, web, wireless), genre (comedy, reality, historical dramas), or culture (England, Colombia, Australia). “I’m agnostic—we’re a content company looking for ideas everywhere,“ he explains. Since leaving William Morris to form Reveille in 2002, Silverman has amassed one of Hollywood’s smartest portfolios, ranging from The Biggest Loser and Nashville Star to the hit U.S. versions of The Office and Ugly Betty and—lest you doubt his renaissance-man status—Showtime’s period piece The Tudors. Next up: He’s raiding the U.K. once more for I’m With Stupid and producing a reality series for MTV about finding new members for the legendary boy band Menudo. Silverman’s ecumenical approach has led him to explore nontraditional revenue streams—for example, he has created a series of Web-only shows for MSN that he’s marketing directly to advertisers. “We’re thinking about all the platforms all the time,“ Silverman notes, “because we don’t live in a silo of one.“ At least he doesn’t.
Television Personality and Producer
He was supposed to be a Ken-doll host who would fade into the backdrop of the American Idol circus and utter a final “Seacrest out!“ when the show closed shop after a few seasons. Right. Instead, Ryan Seacrest has not only held the whole freak show together for six seasons but also managed to outdo all of the Kellys and Clays. In January 2006, Seacrest scored a $21 million deal with E! to develop programming through his own production outfit (he has four projects in the works: three reality shows and E!’s first live-action scripted program). He’s using his connections made as a host—with Fox (Idol), ABC (Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve), and Clear Channel (On Air and America’s Top 40 radio shows)—to push for more Seacrest productions. “We have a deal everywhere but NBC and CBS, and we’d be happy to have deals with them,“ he says. “I don’t think I possess any sort of talent, per se. I believe that I possess the willingness to hustle, to work hard, to push, to take risks, to say yes.“
President, Brillstein-Grey Television
When Peter Traugott joined Brillstein-Grey Entertainment as vice president of television in 1996, it was a major production house run by a Hollywood heavyweight. Then Brad Grey, who’d promoted Traugott to president, left to run Paramount in 2005, and the firm’s future looked uncertain. But under Traugott’s leadership, the company’s TV-production arm didn’t just soldier on—it thrived. He began by remaking the division in his lean-and-mean, unpretentious image. He’s eschewed sprawling productions like The Sopranos (which was developed under Grey’s watch), focusing instead on nurturing talent and pitching projects that play to certain performers’ strengths. This strategy—which has yielded a number of solid (if unsexy) successes, including Real Time With Bill Maher, According to Jim (Belushi), and The Showbiz Show With David Spade—is part of being competitive, Traugott explains: “We said, ‘What’s the best way to platform David?’ He had a lot of opportunities to do other things. So we crafted this show around him.“ Now Traugott is bringing the racially charged standup duo Frangela to Fox, and he has two other comedy pilots that’ve been picked up by ABC. He’s also developing a father-daughter drama produced by Natalie Portman and her father for FX. The company may still be called Brillstein-Grey, but when it comes to TV, it’s all Traugott’s.
Founder, Dacra Development
Without Craig Robins, Miami Beach would likely have continued to slide into shabby irrelevance—but the real-estate developer and art collector spearheaded its revival in the nineties, and then made it an international cultural powerhouse by persuading the founders of the renowned art fair Art Basel in Switzerland to establish an American outpost there. Five-year-old Art Basel Miami is now the largest contemporary-art fair in the world: Forty thousand people attended last year—many arriving by private jet—and some dealers say they do 30 percent of their annual business there. Robins set the stage for his coup in the early nineties, when he and his real-estate firm spurred the transformation of South Beach from a slum into an Art Deco–accented playground for the city’s richest residents. “Historic preservation made a lot of business sense,“ he says, “and I think that’s what’s reinvented Miami.“ That and vision. In 1998, Robins took an area filled with blighted warehouses and created the Design District, the first place in the country where innovative furniture was liberated from studios and put on display for the public at large. It was the perfect backdrop for Art Basel. And now the four-day Miami fair draws collectors such as hedge-fund chief Steven A. Cohen and architect David M. Schwartz, along with major galleries like New York’s Gagosian and Zurich’s Hauser & Wirth. “The impact that Miami Basel has had is astounding to me,“ he says. “It’s defined Miami as a great cultural venue.“
Cofounders, Joost
First they gave the middle finger to the music business with their file-sharing service, Kazaa. Then they showed up the telecommunications industry with their free online phone carrier, Skype (which they sold for $2.6 billion to eBay). So who are Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrm out to piss off next? The television industry, of course, with an Internet TV application the partners have named Joost. “The way we interact with TV is about to change in a big way,“ says Zennström. “We want to drive that change.“ How? By offering a global platform for peer-to-peer video streaming. Joost, which debuts this spring, provides a free, full-screen-TV experience on your computer, with a host of channels that can be programmed by anyone—from MTV to a network in Nepal to the next Tarantino who wants to share his magnum opus with the world. Friis and Zennstrm have sidestepped storage issues by letting users do the hosting—and have, they believe, created a piracy-proof system. What’s more, Joost will be entirely free. So while some major outlets, such as Viacom, are signing up, there’s still a low growling sound emanating from Hollywood, the cable companies, and even the Apple iTunes store. “Niklas and I don’t aim to take down industries,“ explains Friis. “We just look for opportunity—and this is one.“
Founder, Pandora and the Music Genome Project
Until recently, the Internet was a doer, not a thinker. But Tim Westergren’s site Pandora.com and his diabolically addictive Music Genome Project have the Web intuiting that most human of matters: taste. “We’re solving a problem: There’s so much music on the Web that listeners can’t sort it,“ says Westergren, a Stanford-educated “failed musician.“ The MGP is like a bespoke radio station: Users provide their favorite songs or artists, and the site builds playlists based on analyses of hundreds of thousands of tracks according to nearly 400 musical “genes“—vocal harmony, melodic phrasing, rhythmic syncopation, trombone (and whether that trombone plays Dixieland jazz or Jamaican ska), and so on. Arcade Fire fans will be introduced to Miguel Mendez—and will be shocked by how much they like him. The MGP began as a recommendation tool licensed to AOL and Tower Records, among others. Since Pandora went live in 2006, 5.5 million users have registered—including concert promoters seeking opening bands and music supervisors compiling soundtracks. “They’ll start by typing in the perfect song,“ Westergren says. “Probably the one they can’t afford.“ Even more inspiring are the potential applications of his genomic model for other industries. “Periodically I get calls from people to develop a wine genome, or a book genome,“ Westergren says. “Eventually this will exist for a lot of categories. It’s inevitable.“
Founder and CEO, Visible World
Seth Haberman might just be the man who saves television advertising from one mortal enemy (TiVo) by borrowing from another (the Internet). His company, Visible World, is pioneering IntelliSpots, TV ads to be digitally tailored toward a viewer’s specific location and demographic. “Thousands of ads for websites change all the time,“ he says. “We can now do that for television.“ The idea came to Haberman while he was sifting through reams of demographic data for a client in the insurance industry. “I thought, Why can’t a TV commercial reflect what we already know about these people?“ he says. Haberman’s ads might automatically come through in, say, Spanish, or be more youth-focused, depending on a household’s composition. And thanks to Visible World’s digital platform, advertisers are able to alter commercials in seconds to interact with the program you’re watching. So Wendy’s animated racoons can discuss the action in a game (“Did you see that pass?“), as they did on Haberman’s ads that ran during the NFL season. (Other companies that have signed on include MTV, Subaru, Comcast, and all six of the country’s major cable operators.) Haberman and Visible World recently developed even more precisely targeted IntelliSpots. So now the Wendy’s racoons could give you a shout-out by name during the middle of 30 Rock—try fast-forwarding through that.
Founder and CEO, Netflix
If you go by customer enthusiasm, it’s hard to think of a dot-com that seems more solid than Netflix. Yet Hastings’ disc-by-mail company, which launched in 1997 and now has more than 6 million customers, has never been a favorite of market pundits. This despite its well-known triumphs: Netflix buried Blockbuster and successfully repelled Walmart’s entry into the online DVD-rental market (after the retailer uncle’d, it even referred customers to Netflix for a time). With the advent of video-on-demand and the likes of Apple and Amazon offering movie downloads, the doomsayers were clucking again. So what did Hastings do? The software geek turned cineaste (favorite film: Sophie’s Choice) bypassed downloads altogether and stuck with the rental model, launching an online video-streaming feature—free to Netflix subscribers, natch. There’s no download time, no messy piracy issues, no returns to worry about, just the only mode of movie delivery easier than Netflix’s red envelopes. “The DVD will be around as long as gasoline engines,“ Hastings says, “but now we’re set up for the second phase of the revolution. And if we can confound the critics again, that’s the pepper on the steak.“
CEO, Damon Dash Enterprises and BlockSavvy
Allow Damon Dash to offer a tidy summation of his business philosophy: “I’m a real hustler. Know what I mean? I take a lot of chances. As long as it’s real, I don’t give a fuck—I’m gonna roll the dice.“ Dash’s latest gambit may be his biggest: BlockSavvy, a photo-realistic online environment that mashes up the social networking of MySpace with the look and feel of Second Life. BlockSavvy’s built-in marketing and e-commerce applications could lead to a sea change in how a generation shops: Imagine “walking“ into a friend’s virtual room and liking his sneakers—click to buy them. Or stopping by Citizen Cope’s room and hearing him play his newest song—now available on iTunes, of course. It’s the power of skilled branding that’s enabled the man who built Jay-Z Inc. to resurrect PRO-Keds, whose profits and street cred have soared thanks to Dash’s guerrilla-marketed limited editions, and to take on everything from film (Dash financed Nick Cannon’s Weapons, a recent Sundance hit) to fashion (he launched wife Rachel Roy’s couture lines as well as his own upscale suit collection) to prizefighting (he’s backing welterweight Andre Berto) and talent management. “I want everyone to know that everything I do is the best—period,“ says Dash. “Once you trust everything that has my name on it, then I can put my brand on anything.“
Chief Strategist, John McCain 2008
In a political climate where crossing the aisles is like scaling a razor-wire fence, John Weaver is the rare creature who not only went over but made it back again. After guiding John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, Weaver bolted the Republican Party following a blow-out with Karl Rove (remember South Carolina?). He worked for several Democrats in 2002 and 2003 before returning to his role as McCain’s secret campaign weapon. Now he’s tasked with selling his candidate both to voters (he’s leveraging McCain’s Daily Show charisma into free publicity) and to the party’s conservative base, which has long been wary of McCain (Weaver’s encouraging the senator to engage with figures like Jerry Falwell). “I think the most challenging part is being okay with McCain being McCain,“ says Weaver. “The natural instinct is to smother with detail and attention until you end up with a candidate that a committee might devise but you couldn’t sell.“ Weaver’s got his own edges, as evidenced by his smashing cell phones, tossing suitcases, and even forcing McCain to stick around for a critical press conference. “He said, ‘I’m getting on the bus and leaving,’“ Weaver recalls. “And I said, ‘Well, that’s fine, but I’ve got the keys.’“ Read that any way you want.
Political Scientist and Author
You can tell a lot about a professor by his students. So consider that Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker has Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama seeking his policy advice. Credit his groundbreaking 2006 book, The Great Risk Shift, which challenges the way economic security has long been measured in the course of demonstrating how middle-class Americans face a degree of economic stress once felt only by those at the bottom of the income ladder. “Indicators like inflation, unemployment, GDP, and the stock market just aren’t capturing the uncertainty people are feeling,“ Hacker says, noting that a family’s year-to-year income is twice as volatile today as it was in the mid-seventies. In addition to putting an academic gloss on the new strain of populism that Democrats believe will buoy them in 2008, the outspoken Hacker is directly trying to influence policy debates—something many of his Ivory Tower colleagues frown on. “I started these discussions before I had tenure and was definitely concerned about how it would affect my prospects,“ he says, “but it mattered to me so much that these views be out there.“ Now don’t be surprised if one of Hacker’s pupils rides them all the way to the White House.
President, Bravo Network
Lauren Zalaznick says that the hardest part of being a TV executive is failing to “convince someone that a great idea is, in fact, a great idea.“ Considering the success of Project Runway, Top Chef, and The Real Housewives of Orange County—all of which she greenlit after starting at Bravo three years ago—she doesn’t need to worry about her powers of persuasion. The television landscape is littered with every kind of reality show imaginable, but Zalaznick has carefully built her mini-empire of hits with a particular audience in mind, and the cable network is ranked No. 1 among affluent, educated viewers. “We’ll hear about 25 different design shows, 1,000 different style shows, 1 million different personality-based shows,“ she says. “The worst thing people do is come in and hype their pitch by saying, ‘This is really hot. We’ve been to eight other networks and they’re all clamoring for it.’ That pretty much ends the meeting.“ And these days, Zalaznick says, finding the right medium for Bravo’s content is as important as having an eye for programming. “Do we blog this show? Put that one on iTunes? Legislate against YouTube?“ she asks. “I’ve never been involved in so much minute decision-making that could have a huge impact.“
President, Epic Records
While his peers heap on the gloom and doom, Charlie Walk is unfailingly bullish on the music industry—which makes him either clueless or extremely canny. “People are using music more than ever,“ he says. “They’re just not purchasing in a traditional way. We have to embrace that.“ Take the iPhone. Where other execs cry that it might steal revenue, Walk sees a golden opportunity in wireless subscription. “Say 50 million of 200 million cell-phone users pay just $6 a month for ‘all you can eat’ music,“ Walk says. “That’s $300 million a month to the industry.“ It doesn’t bother Walk that this model might mean the death of CDs and downloads. “Our name may be Epic Records, but we’re really selling brands,“ he explains. Indeed, the longtime marketing and promotions exec, who took the helm in December 2005, was among the first to cash in on ringtones and capitalize on social networking (he’s developing the community and content site ThisGirl.com). Walk also signed a deal with Rachael Ray to extend her brand into wireless and music compilations, pioneered user-generated music videos (with Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie“), and introduced the revolutionary MP3 “personalization,“ in which your name is inserted into the lyrics of a song you download. “I try to see where things are going,“ he says, “as opposed to staying with the status quo
Political Consultant
In 2002, during the darkest days of the Democratic Party’s electoral slump, Jay Reiff, then the campaign manager for South Carolina governor Jim Hodges, failed to get his man re-elected—Reiff’s only loss in more than 10 years of Democratic campaigns. He decided to take lessons from the enemy, reading Bad Boy, the biography of GOP operative Lee Atwater, whose gleefully negative tactics became staples of Republican campaign strategy. “Once you understand how Atwater’s Republicans won,“ says Reiff, “it helps you learn how to beat them.“ Reiff proved a quick study: He and his team led Democratic challenger Bob Casey to an 18-point victory over incumbent Senator Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania last November. Reiff refused to pander to Democratic interest groups or write off rural or religious voters (it helped that he knew the terrain, having grown up on a Lancaster County farm in a family that revered Ronald Reagan). Instead, he emphasized Casey’s faith and pro-life credentials, and hit his opponent hard. Reiff’s approach—taking the fight to Republicans on their own turf—is seen as essential for the Democrats in 2008, especially in red states like North Carolina, where he helped Democratic governor Mike Easley cruise to victory in ’04 by playing up Easley’s undying love for Nascar. “But it’s got to be genuine,“ says the Carhartt-wearing Reiff. “You can’t fake it.“
Fashion Designer
Tom Ford could easily have coasted for the rest of his career. In 2003, he was the fashion world’s most visible star: He’d resurrected Gucci as a luxe brand in the early nineties as the rest of the world wallowed in grunge, and he’d ascended to creative director at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, all while designing celebrated collections at both labels. But then he quit—and for a reason more powerful than money or ego: “When you become used to the idea of something being your job,“ Ford says, “you forget the passion you have for it.“ When rumors of his return to designing circulated, most assumed he’d stick with his forte: women’s clothing. But he surprised once more, focusing the Tom Ford collection (debuting this spring) on men. “When I began looking for clothes for myself, I couldn’t find everything I needed,“ he says. “You can get a beautiful suit on Savile Row, but that only works if you dress like a banker all the time.“ Newly inspired, Ford threw himself into creating a line that includes everything from suits to wallets to hand-knit socks to custom-made tennis shorts, all available at the designer’s eponymous stores and by private appointment. “We’d lost touch with the idea of what luxury is,“ Ford says. “I felt it needed to be reinvented.“
CEO, National Public Radio
Ken Stern never intended to have a career in radio, which may make him the perfect man to take NPR out of that racket and into the modern media business. Since he arrived as executive vice president in 1999, NPR’s weekly audience has grown from 13 million to 26 million, thanks to its news coverage. “We’ve been able to fill the space that commercial media vacated,“ Stern says, noting that NPR recently opened its 18th foreign bureau, while CBS is down to two. Stern, who became CEO six months ago, pushed NPR aggressively into digital media, including satellite radio and Internet streaming, and he made it a worldwide leader in podcasts. Now he’s moved it into HD Radio, he’s ramping up Web-video production, and he’s building a music supersite that draws on all public-radio affiliates. NPR is stronger than ever-, which makes this the ideal time to launch a news program for twentysomethings (nicknamed “The Zack Project“) that will compete with “Morning Edition.“ “I believe in attacking one’s own business,“ Stern says. “If we don’t, someone else will. Our goal is to beat everyone to the punch.“
Partners, Common Good Strategies
Don’t try telling veteran Democratic operatives Eric Sapp and Mara Vanderslice that religious Democrat is an oxymoron—the two evangelical Christians have heard it before. “On my first campaign,“ Vanderslice remembers, “someone told this senior adviser that I was there to do religious outreach. He looked at me and said, ‘How the hell did you get hired?’“ After the party got trounced in 2004 (remember those “values voters“ in Ohio?), the Democrats started rethinking their tactics. Vanderslice (soon joined by Sapp) seized the moment to launch Common Good Strategies, the first-ever religiously oriented Democratic political-consulting firm, to engage with evangelicals and Catholics on traditionally liberal issues like global warming and aids in Africa. Last November, Sapp and Vanderslice’s candidates won seven out of seven key senatorial, congressional, and gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, and did 10 to 20 points better with religious voters than other Democrats. Their strategies were surprisingly simple: run ads on Christian radio, teach candidates to be comfortable talking about faith, and—gasp!—sit down with conservative Catholics and evangelicals. “At one of the early meetings, a pastor asked us, ‘Where have you been?’“ says Sapp. “They don’t hate Democrats; they just hadn’t heard from any in a long time.“
Assistant Secretary of State
Kristen Silverberg, the first woman to hold the title of assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, doesn’t care that her fellow conservatives dis her job. “I’m the person in charge of multilateralism in an administration known for its unilateralism,“ the Bush appointee says with a laugh. Talk about putting it diplomatically. One of her top priorities is implementing U.S. policy in the United Nations, the body that Bill O’Reilly famously said he wished Hurricane Katrina had flooded. In 2005, Silverberg, then Andrew Card’s right hand and a rapidly rising star in the White House, gave up the glamour of the West Wing for the Department of State, believing that whether people have enough to eat in Darfur can affect stability around the globe and be a factor in the War on Terror. Since then, the steadfast proponent of compassionate conservatism has earned plaudits for her approach, which emphasizes delivering humanitarian aid along with top-level diplomacy—e.g., using the U.N. World Food Program to highlight American generosity (and influence opinion) in the Middle East. “One of the things I’m most proud of about this administration is we use America’s power and influence and resources to help people who live in the worst parts of the world,“ says Silverberg. “That’s the calling.“
Journalist, ABC News
When George Stephanopoulos first left the political media flat-footed, it was with his rapid-response communications operation for Bill Clinton. Now he’s outmaneuvering his fellow members of the Fourth Estate every Sunday as the host of ABC’s This Week. Stephanopoulos, perhaps the fairest and most astute listener in television news, has transformed his political experience—once seen as hindering his objectivity—into an asset. “I know what it’s like to be in a room getting ready for these kinds of interviews,“ he says, “and I think that’s one of the biggest advantages that I’ve had—an intuitive feel for what’s coming.“ His other advantage: an understanding of production values. In addition to in-studio innovations, Stephanopoulos has taken the long-staid Sunday-morning political coverage out from behind the desk. “I’m committed to getting into the field and going where the story is,“ he says, pointing proudly to his “On the Trail“ campaign series. This explains why Stephanopoulos is also seeing more evening airtime as ABC News’ chief Washington correspondent and why This Week leapfrogged CBS’s venerable Face the Nation to second place during last November’s sweeps—a sweet moment for Stephanopoulos, whose job ABC offered to Ted Koppel in 2005. “The progress we made wasn’t ordained,“ he says. “It wasn’t inevitable. It took a lot of sweat.“
Reality-Television Producer
To hear Mark Burnett tell it, there is no one secret to making television you can’t turn off. “If I knew, I’d have a lot more shows on the air,“ says Burnett, who evidently thinks fourteen seasons of Survivor and six of The Apprentice (not to mention The Casino, The Contender, Rock Star: INXS, Rock Star: Supernova, and the new Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?) aren’t sufficient. Which is why he’s still going full-bore—and still atop the ratings even as dramas like CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, and Desperate Housewives have made gains at the expense of reality shows. “I treat everything I do like a hundred-million-dollar feature film,“ Burnett says. It’s fitting, then, that he’s partnered with Steven Spielberg for his upcoming project, On the Lot (think: the indie-film equivalent of American Idol). “Will prime-time television be user-generated in five years?“ he asks. “Who knows? But one thing you can be sure of is that we’ll all still be going to a dark room and watching movies with 200 people and eating popcorn.“ You can also be sure that you’ll be watching Burnett’s creations—whether on your iPod or your iPhone—for a very long time.
Musician and Producer
“I felt like I’d been in one place for so long,“ says berproducer Timbaland. “I’m bigger than just one sound. I’m a music producer, not a rap producer.“ And true to form, hip-hop’s mad genius, né Timothy Mosley, engineered a slick rebirth and has emerged as the new King of Pop. He used his robotic beats to bring Nelly Furtado back all sexy and to help Justin Timberlake bring sexy back. Timbaland’s reign is sure to continue in 2007: His new solo album, Shock Value, features collaborations with the usual suspects (Jay-Z, J.T.) but also with unlikely partners such as the Hives, Fall Out Boy, and even Elton John. “He came in and played piano for seven hours—what a genius,“ the soft-spoken producer says of Sir Elton. Later this year, Timbaland will sprinkle his magic dust on releases by Chris Brown, M.I.A., Duran Duran, and possibly Coldplay, each artist offering a new vessel for his oddball creativity. “Things like banging pots and pans give me ideas,“ he says. “There’s no M.O.—I just have fun. I guess I just hear things differently than most people.“
CEO, Plum TV
Perhaps you remember Tom Scott, one of the two “Juice Guys“ who sold the lemonade stand turned juggernaut Nantucket Nectars to Ocean Spray for $70 million in 1997. The entrepreneur then bet on his home turf again, buying the island’s TV station and in 2004 launching what he calls his second “garage band,“ Plum TV, a network that caters to ultra-high-end viewers in their playgrounds. “Vacation is an amazing time to reach people in the right way,“ Scott says. “People make major purchase and life decisions.“ Hence Plum TV’s mix of smart fare like Open Exchange, a series of sit-downs with titans of industry, and upscale-lifestyle programming. Scott and his partners—his friends Cary Woods (a movie producer) and Chris Glowacki (a former NBC executive)—have already brought the network to Martha’s Vineyard, the Hamptons, Aspen, Telluride, and Vail, with Sun Valley and Miami Beach in the works. And it’s attracting the sort of A-list advertisers, like Volkswagen and American Express, that typically turn their noses up at local cable—despite Scott’s insistence on keeping campaigns regional. “People don’t hand us their commercials,“ he says. “We produce things for them. I don’t want to see an ad about a car driving down some road in Kansas. I want to see that car in Nantucket.“
Cofounder and CEO, Tesla Motors
Who killed the electric car? In the case of the dowdy buggy built for bumper-sticker types, blame Martin Eberhard, who created an electric-powered car that accelerates as fast as a Porsche and is just as sexy. “We needed to do something about our addiction to oil, but electric cars weren’t attractive,“ says Eberhard, whose company is in San Carlos, California. “The right approach was to make one people would want to drive.“ The Tesla Roadster is that car—it can go from zero to 60 in four seconds (an electric motor’s other advantage? performance) and has a shapely body (Lotus helped in the design). Eberhard’s two-seater can cover 250 miles on one overnight charge (from any wall outlet), and its energy efficiency is twice that of a hybrid—equivalent to 135 miles per gallon in a gasoline car. This explains why, despite a sticker price of $92,000, 325 units of the anticipated 2007 run have been pre-sold, and why Eberhard expects to sell 1,200 cars in 2008. While Detroit plays wait-and-see, about a dozen new electric-car companies in the Bay Area are following Eberhard’s lead. And as Silicon Valley evolves into the new Motor City, expect something else to be killed off. “The concept of the gas station,“ Eberhard says confidently, “will be gone.“

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