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What is the Fortune 500 list?

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Quick Answer

The Fortune 500 list is a list that ranks the top public and closely held businesses in the United States. It is published by Fortune magazine and uses gross revenue to determine rankings. The first Fortune 500 list was published in 1995, and the idea came from Edgar P. Smith.

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Full Answer

When the Fortune 500 list was first published, it focused on companies that had revenues from only three fields: energy exploration, manufacturing and mining. Separate lists were also published and called the Fortune 50. These lists focused on the largest 50 companies in fields such as life insurance companies, commercial banking, transportation and utilities. Each of these lists used different criteria to determine ranking. It was not until 1994 that the Fortune 50 expanded to include the service industry.

The top company on the Fortune 500 list for 2014 was Wal-Mart, with a total of over $473 billion in net sales. It was the second year in a row that Wal-Mart topped the Fortune 500 list. The second company on the list was Exxon Mobil, which had total revenue of over $438 billion. The top ten also included Chevron, Berkshire Hathaway, Apple, Phillips 66, General Motors, Ford Motor, General Electric and Valero Energy.

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