Where Are They Now?

From corporate raiders to earnings management to activity-based costing, we take a look at some of finance's greatest hits.
David KatzJanuary 5, 2003

Like the old soldiers in the barracks song quoted by General Douglas MacArthur in his farewell speech, most old ideas in corporate finance never seem to die. But unlike old warriors, many notions have a way of hanging around way past their prime.

Indeed, very little of what made news on the finance pages in the past two decades or so has completely faded away. That’s what we’ve found in the — very unofficial — survey of concepts, theories, and folks of finance past we offer here. In fact, previous luminaries like the swashbuckling ’80s corporate raider T. Boone Pickens and Mitchell Kapor, the software maven who developed the ill-fated Lotus 1-2-3, have recently sported renewed claims on the spotlight.

To be sure, some of the ideas we’ve looked at, like covariance and financial engineering, are still riding high. A few, of course, are destined to stay on the scrap heap: To have a Big Eight rule the accounting roost seems clearly passé, while “first-mover advantage” went out of fashion when the bubble economy burst.

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So where are these notions now? To help guide you through the thicket, we’ve provided a stellar rating system. If you see a gold star at the top of the image accompanying each story, the idea is still peaking. Ideas with a silver star in the middle are percolating along just fine, while a concept with a bronze star at the bottom means you won’t likely be hearing too much about it outside of trivia compiliations.

T. Boone and the Raiders


Lotus 1-2-3

Financial Engineering

First-Mover Advantage

The Big Eight

Activity-Based Costing (ABC)</

Earnings Management