- Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Group – He’s my kind of billionaire: irreverent, playful and working for the public good.
- Steve Case, co-founder of AOL – No one person did more to bring Americans online than Steve. I was using Quantum Link on my Commodore 64 more than 20 years ago. Steve also happens to own much of my favorite island.
- Stephen Colbert, right-wing talk show host – A brilliant satirist who has helped shape politics and used new technologies to engage his audience with stunts like the Green Screen Challenge. His portrait deserved to hang at the National Portrait Gallery.
- Don Graham, chairman of the Washington Post Co. – washingtonpost.com was an early leader in the online news business and remains one of the most innovative. I’m not very optimistic about the future of the industry, but the Post Co. is likely to be one of the survivors.
- Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos – I heard him speak this year at SXSW (mp3 podcast). His passion for delivering excellent customer service is practically unheard of these days. Among other things, Zappos offers employees $2,000 to quit after they’ve been through training. The offer weeds out those who aren’t committed.
- Jason Kilar, CEO of hulu – Jason and his consumer-obsessed team built my favorite product of 2008, beating out the DVR. I just hope that his phenomenal success in giving consumers what they want isn’t a death sentence.
- Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo – It’s great to see an Indian woman at the helm of a major American company and the puveyor of my drug of choice. She’s doing a lot better than the other Indian CEO who’s been in the news lately.
- Larry Page, co-founder of Google – Catch up with a high school classmate and hear how it all happened. He talked about googol all through high school.
- Gwyneth Paltrow, actress – I’ve been a big fan since Shakespeare in Love. I had the chance to talk to her on a plane once and she was so friendly and sweet.
- Mary-Louise Parker, actress – I love Weeds.
- Robert Reich, economist and Clinton labor secretary – His perspectives are always interesting. I’m also curious to hear how he dealt with the challenges of being short.
- Jon Stewart, comedian and satirist – There’s a reason more people are getting their news from The Daily Show: he doesn’t believe in the fake balance that results in distortion.
- Biz Stone and Ev Williams, co-founders of Twitter – Hear the story of how something that shouldn’t work became so big and share some of my ideas for making money off Twitter.
- Glen Tilton, CEO of United Airlines – To tell him how much his short-sighted bean counters are costing him in long term business, especially when he has rivals like Virgin America on some of his key routes. If only Hsieh and Tilton had dinner together, maybe flying United wouldn’t be such a miserable experience. Either that or the universe would implode.
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