No. 1-20: Phil Knight, Tony Hsieh, Manolo…

A look at what made their year great — or not so great.

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Matt Rubel
Chairman, President, CEO; Collective Brands Inc.
2008 Rank: 3

Collective Brands Inc. is reaping the benefits of a diverse business model. While the firm took a financial hit this year, there were several notable bright spots, including a healthy kids’ business and continued momentum for the Saucony and Sperry Top-Sider brands. Rubel, 51, is also capitalizing on international opportunities within the Performance and Lifestyle Group (the umbrella for the former Stride Rite brands) and the Payless ShoeSource division. This year, through a franchising program, Payless opened its first Middle Eastern stores and revealed plans to enter Russia. Expect the CEO to tap into more overseas deals in the year ahead. At home, though, Rubel will continue to evaluate the Payless chain’s massive, and costly, store roster. So far, he’s done that through an emphasis on expense management that has helped protect profitability — a smart move, according to analysts.

Power Players: LuAnn Via, president, CEO, Payless ShoeSource; Gregg Ribatt, president, CEO, Collective Brands Performance and Lifestyle Group; Bruce Pettet, president, CEO, Collective Licensing

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