Two Silicon Valley CEOs are among eight finalists for Time Magazine's Person of the Year award, the publication revealed Tuesday.
Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer and Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook join political luminaries like U.S. President Barack Obama and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi as finalists for the annual award, which the magazine has granted since 1927. The other four final nominees are Bill and Hillary Clinton; Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist whom the Taliban unsuccessfully attempted to kill; Italian physicist Fabiola Gianotti, who helped discover the Higgs boson, the so-called God Particle; and "Undocumented Americans," a category of people similar to the 2011 winner, "The Protester."
Mayer, 37, was named CEO of Yahoo in June after spending her entire career at Google (GOOG), where she was employee No. 20 and a high-ranking executive when she surprised Silicon Valley by agreeing to take the job. The Sunnyvale company has struggled to stay relevant while cycling through five permanent and interim CEOs in under four years, as Google and Facebook surpassed the former king of online display advertising in the important revenue-generating arena.
Cook took over Apple from legendary cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs in 2011, not long before Jobs passed away from complications caused by cancer; Jobs was a nominee for the Time award in 2011. In 2012, Cook has led Apple to a record-high market capitalization -- the total value of all shares in the company -- while introducing the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini mobile consumer devices. The road has not been easy for Cook, however, as Apple's skyrocketing stock price has fallen sharply back to earth since the iPhone 5 launched in late September, and the CEO was forced to apologize for launching a default Apple Maps app that was not ready for prime time, which led to an executive shake-up.
In an interview on the Time website, the magazine's executive editor, Radhika Jones, lamented the fact that Cook's predecessor was never named Person of the Year.
"To me the optimal year (to honor Jobs) would have been 1984, when the first Mac came out. The 1984 Person of the Year was Peter Ueberroth, who ran the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Looking back, it's easy to judge, but that would have been a good year for Steve," Jones said.
Jones and the rest of the Time editorial staff will choose the Person of the Year and announce it on the Today show today, as well as on the Time website and Twitter feed. It has only been two years since the staff last named a Silicon Valley CEO its Person of the Year: Facebook cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg received the honor in 2010.
Time also offered a poll for online readers to put forward their vote for Person of the Year, though the magazine admitted in announcing the winner -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un -- that members of well-known Internet forum 4chan had banded together to manipulate the results. Morsi and Undocumented Immigrants also made the top 10 of the reader poll, which received 5.6 million votes.
Yahoo and Apple did not respond to email requests for comment on the nominations Tuesday morning.
Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.