Who Is the Superclass?

A few thousand people now hold unparalleled power over world affairs. The members of this group, which I call the "superclass," come from business, finance, politics, the military, the arts, the nonprofit world and other realms, including even "shadow elites" from terrorist or criminal organizations. Each member is set apart by his ability to regularly influence the lives of millions of people in multiple countries worldwide. Each actively exercises this power and often amplifies it through the development of relationships with other superclass members. To be a member one has to hold on to power just long enough to make an impact, be it by leading a revolution or launching a revolutionary Web site.

Who are the members of this global elite and, more important, what is the nature of this group, how does it connect, and how is it changing? To help understand the answer to this question I compiled more than 6,000 names in a rough census, a snapshot of the tiny community of the most powerful people on the planet at this moment. Many are profiled or identified in the book. However, to give you a few illustrations from that list, here are 10 samples drawn from the roster of today's superclass, prepared exclusively for NEWSWEEK and organized according to location, age, and profession:

Asia-Pacific (The source of 33 percent of the superclass)
Fu Chengyu – CNOOC (China)
Kim Jung Il – Leader (North Korea)
William Ding Lei – NetEase (China)
Ho Ching – Temasek (Singapore)
Lakshmi Mittal – Arcelor Mittal (India)
David Yonggi Cho – Yoido Full Gospel Church (South Korea)
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah – Hizbullah (Lebanon)
Sonia Ghandi – National Congress Party (India)
Lou Jiwei – China Investment Corp. (China)
Prince Bandar Bin Sultan – National Security Council (Saudi Arabia)

European Union (28 percent)
Mike Turner – BAE (U.K.)
Josef Ackerman – Deutsche Bank (Germany)
Alexei Miller – Gazprom (Russia)
Pascal Lamy – World Trade Organization (France)
Richard Branson – Virgin Group (U.K.)
Silvio Berlusconi – Former prime minister (Italy)
Peter Brabeck-Letmathe – Nestle (Switzerland)
Josef Joffe – Die Zeit (Germany)
Michele Alliot-Marie – Minister of the Interior (France)
Bob Geldof – Musician (Ireland)

North America (21 percent)
Arnold Schwarzenegger – State of California
Ronald Sugar – Northrop Grumman
Jeffrey Immelt – General Electric
James Dimon – JP Morgan
Robert Zoellick – World Bank
Oprah Winfrey—Television personality, producer
Indra K. Nooyi – PepsiCo
Al Gore – Former vice president, Nobel Prize winner
H. Lee Scott – Wal-Mart
Gen. Mike Mullen – Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Latin America (12 percent)
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – President (Brazil)
Lorenzo Mendoza Gimenez – Empresas Polar (Venezuela)
Mario Molina – Nobel Prize winning chemist (Mexico)
Moise Safra – Banco Safra (Brazil)
Carlos Slim Helú – Telmex (Mexico)
Andronico Luksic – Banco de Chile (Chile)
Luis Alberto Moreno – Inter-American Development Bank (Colombia)
Genaro Larrea Mota Velasco – Grupo Mexico SA (Mexico)
Gustavo Cisneros – Cisneros Group (Venezuela)
Shakira – Singer (Colombia)

Africa (5 percent)
Aliko Dangote – Dangote Group (Nigeria)
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf – President (Liberia)
Amr Khaled – Muslim preacher (Egypt)
Cardinal Francis Arinze – Roman Catholic Church (Nigeria)
Patrice Motsepe – African Rainbow Minerals (South Africa)
Col. Muammar Kaddafi – Leader (Libya)
Nelson Mandela – Former president (South Africa)
Wangari Maathai – Nobel Prize winner (Kenya)
Amre Moussa – Secretary-General, League of Arab States (Egypt)
Odein Ajumogobia – Minister of State for Petroleum (Nigeria)

45 and Younger
Janus Friis, 32 – Cofounder, Skype (Finland)
Hiroshi Mikitani, 43 – Founder, Rakuten (Japan)
Kalanidhi Maran, 44 – Chairman, Sun Network (India)
Andrey Likhachev, 43 – CEO, Lenenergo (Russia)
Mark Zuckerberg, 23 – CEO, Facebook (USA)
Yang Huiyan, 26 – Majority shareholder, Country Garden (China)
Oleg Deripaska, 40 – Chairman, RUSAL (Russia)
Richard Li, 42 – Chairman, PCCW Limited and Pacific Century Group (Hong Kong)
Pierre Omidyar, 39 – Founder, eBay (USA)
Lorenzo Mendoza Gimenez, 43 – CEO, Empresas Polar (Venezuela)

Mukesh Ambani, 50 – Chairman, Reliance Industries (India)
Zhou Xiaochuan, 60 – Governor, People's Bank of China (China)
Vladimir Popovkin, 51 – Commander, Russian military (Russia)
José Manuel Barroso, 52 – President, European Commission (Spain)
Kemal Dervis, 59 – Administrator, UNDP (Turkey)
Steve Case, 50 – Former chairman and CEO, AOL (USA)
Rene Obermann, 45 – CEO, Deutsche Telekom (Germany)
Rana Talwar, 60 – Chairman, Sabre Capital Worldwide (India)
Guillermo Ortiz Martinez, 60 – Governor, Bank of Mexico (Mexico)
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, 51 – Chairman, Kingdom Holding (Saudi Arabia)

65 and Older
Osamu Suzuki, 78 – Chairman, Suzuki Motor Corp. (Japan)
Reinhard Mohn, 87 – Stakeholder, Bertelsmann (Germany)
Julio Mario Santo Domingo, 84 – SAB Miller (Colombia)
Bernard Ecclestone, 78 – President and CEO, Formula One (UK)
Sheikh Sabah IV Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, 79 – Emir, Kuwait (Kuwait)
Michael Bloomberg, 66 – Mayor, New York City (USA)
Carlos Slim Helú, 68 – Chairman and CEO, Telmex (Mexico)
Akira Mori, 71 – CEO, Mori Trust (Japan)
KP Singh, 76 – CEO, DLF Universal Limited (India)
Sumner Redstone, 84 – Owner, CBS Corporation and Viacom (USA)

George W. Bush
Vladimir Putin
Hu Jintao
Gordon Brown
Angela Merkel
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Nicolas Sarkozy
Ban Ki-Moon
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
Sonia Gandhi

Jeffrey Immelt – CEO of General Electric
Rex Tillerson – CEO of Exxon Mobil
Ratan Tata – CEO, Tata Group
Ali Al-Naimi – Saudi Arabian oil minister
Tianpu Wang – CEO of Sinopec
Alexei Miller – CEO of Gazprom
Jeroen van der Veer – CEO of Royal Dutch Shell
H. Lee Scott – CEO of Wal-Mart
Indra K. Nooyi – CEO of PepsiCo
Lakshmi Mittal – Chairman and CEO, Arcelor Mittal

Zhou Xiaochuan – Governor of People's Bank of China
Ben Bernanke – Head of U.S. Federal Reserve
Jean-Claude Trichet – President of EU Central Bank
Khalifa Mohammad Al-Kindi – Chairman of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority
Ken Lewis – Chairman, CEO of Bank of America
Stephen Green – CEO of HSBC
Jamie Dimon – Chairman, CEO of JPMorgan Chase
Lloyd Blankfein – CEO of Goldman Sachs Group
John Varley – CEO of Barclays
Baudouin Prot – CEO of BNP Paribas

Rupert Murdoch – Chairman, CEO of New Corp.
Sheik Al-Thani – Chairman of Al Jazeera
Pope Benedict XVI
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – Supreme Leader, Iran
Sergei Brin and Larry Page – Co-founders of Google
Bill Gates – Gates Foundation, Microsoft
Warren Buffet – Berkshire Hathaway, billionaire philanthropist
Jerry Yang – CEO of Yahoo!
Mark Thompson – Director-General of BBC
Tenzin Gyatso – Dalai Llama