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Merck, Philip Morris Most Admired Companies; Exxon Falls

January 9, 1990 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ America’s two most admired corporations are its biggest maker of pharmaceuticals and its largest producer of cigarettes, Fortune magazine said Tuesday.

For Merck & Co., it was the fourth consecutive year the drug maker has topped the magazine’s ranking of the most admired large companies in the United States.

Philip Morris Cos., the world’s biggest consumer products company with a stable of brands that includes Marlboro cigarettes and Kraft foods, improved to the No. 2 position from fourth last year.

The two companies stood out in a ranking of 305 companies based on a survey of more than 8,000 directors, the magazine said. The companies were rated in eight separate categories.

The biggest casualty on this year’s list was Exxon Corp., which plummeted to No. 110. It was ranked sixth last year, before the Alaskan oil spill.

Merck came out on top overall after being voted the best in terms of its innovativeness, ability to attract and keep talented people, financial soundness and the quality of its products and services.

Philip Morris finished a close second and was cited as the best company in terms of its quality of management and its value as a long-term investment. The company’s shares gave investors an average total return of 30.1 percent a year from 1979 to 1989, the magazine said.

The rest of the top 10 was rounded out by Rubbermaid Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., PepsiCo, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Coca-Cola Co., Anheuser-Busch Inc. and Du Pont.

The inclusion of the three biggest U.S. beverage companies in the top 10 was ″a tribute to their ability to gain global market share without choking off profit growth,″ Fortune said.

International Business Machines, which was ranked most admired until Merck displaced it in 1986, fell 11 places to No. 45 in the latest rankings.

Not surprisingly in a year when the savings and loan crisis made headlines, the least admired company in the survey was Gibraltar Financial Corp. of California. The Beverly Hills, Calif., company’s Gibraltar Savings thrift lost $322 million in the April-June quarter alone last year and has been taken over by federal regulators.