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Magazine Inaugurates Annual Ranking of Top Women Business Owners

April 22, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ Professionals in fields ranging from metal-making to egg farming are among the members of Working Woman magazine’s inaugural listing of the top women business owners in the United States, released Wednesday.

Leading the list is Antonia Axson Johnson, head of the Sweden-based metals and telecommunications company Axel Johnson, with U.S. sales totaling $829 million.

Also on the list are steel manufacturer Dorothy Owen, weight-loss entrepreneur Jenny Craig, and guided missile navigation system maker Norma Paige.

Leading up the rear is Lois Rust, president of Rose Acre farms, a divorced mother of 7 who along with her children ousted her ex-husband from the family’s Indiana egg business in 1989.

Working Woman, a monthly based in New York, said the ranking published in May editions reflected the growing prominence and importance of women as corporate executives in the United States. The issue hits stands next Monday.

The magazine ranked the top 25 women-owned businesses on annual sales.

″These women are making women-owned businesses the rule, not the exception,″ Editor-in-Chief Lynn Povich said in an editor’s note.

By the end of this year, more people will be employed by women-owned businesses than by Fortune 500 companies, the National Foundation of Women Business Owners reckoned in a recent study quoted in the magazine.

The foundation study also showed that there are more than 5.4 million women-owned businesses in this country, almost one-third more than the official 1987 Census Bureau count of 4.1 million.

The study attributed the disparity to what it called the Census Bureau’s reliance on Internal Revenue Service data that don’t necessarily reveal owners of businesses.

Thirteen of the entrees in the Working Woman list founded their own businesses, 11 inherited them and 1, Linda Wachner, head of the clothing company Warnaco, bought hers in a debt-financed takeover.

To qualify for the list, the women had to own at least 20 percent of the stock if their company was private and 10 percent if was public. In addition, they had to be executives running the day-to-day operations.

Here is the list, as ranked by the annual U.S. sales of each entry’s business:

1. Antonia Axson Johnson, chair, Axel Johnson Group, $829 million.

2. Gretchen Minyard Williams, Liz Minyard, co-chairs, Minyard Food Stores, $700 million.

3. Linda J. Wachner, chair, chief executive, president, Warnaco Group Inc., sales $548 million.

4. Donna W. Steigerwaldt, chair, chief executive officer, Jockey International, $450 million.

5. Susie Tompkins, creative director, Esprit De Corp., $450 million.

6. Norma Paige, chair, executive vice president, Astronautics, $415 million.

7. Jenny Craig, vice chair, Jenny Craig, Inc., $412 million.

8. Kelen K. Copley, chair, chief executive officer, Copley Press, $405 million.

9. Barbara Levy Kipper, chair, Chas Levy Co., $350 million.

10. Annabelle L. Fetterman, chair, Lundy Packing Co., $350 million.

11. Bettye Martin Musham, chief executive officer, president, Gear Holdings, Inc., $280 million.

12. Linda Johnson Rice, chief operating officer, president, Johnson Publishing, $252 million.

13. Dian Graves Owen, chair, co-chief executive officer, Owen Healthcare, Inc., $250 million.

14. Carole Little, co-chair, co-founder, Carole Little, Inc., $205 million.

15. Lana Jane Lewis-Brent, chief executive officer, president, vice chair, Sunshine Jr. Stores, Inc., $203 million.

16. Ellen R. Gordon, president, Tootsie Roll Industries, $200 million.

17. Donna Karan, chief executive officer, Donna Karan Co., $200 million.

18. Dorothy Owen, chair, Owen Steel Co., $192 million.

19. Christel DeHaan, chief executive officer, president, Resort Condominiums International, $180 million.

20. Adrienne Vittadini, chair, Adrienne Vittadini, Inc., $160 million.

21. Lillian Vernon, chief executive officer, Lillian Vernon Corp., $160 million.

22. Helen Jo Whitsell, chair, chief executive officer, Copeland Lumber yards, Inc., $152 million.

23. Judy Sims, chief executive officer, Software Spectrum, $146 million.

24. Paula Kent Meeham, chairman, chief executive officer, Redken Laboratories, $140 million.

25. Lois Rust, president, Rose Acre Farms, $127 million.

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