Nick Saban named one of Fortune's 50 greatest leaders in the world

Dr. Saturday
Nick Saban has won five national titles in nine seasons at Alabama. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Nick Saban has won five national titles in nine seasons at Alabama. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

In the eyes of Fortune Magazine, Nick Saban is one of the greatest leaders in the world.

That’s right — the world. And he’s pretty high up on the list, too.

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Fortune revealed its annual top 50 list, and Saban, on the heels of his sixth national title, came in at No. 12, just behind Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, and ahead of Emmanuel Macron, the president of France and Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple.

Yeah, Saban is in pretty elite company.

This year’s list focused on “the power of unbundling.”

Unbundling means disaggregating enterprises of all kinds, from the smallest startups to entire nations. In business it can mean making a company more valuable by splitting it up, as Hewlett-Packard did and other companies (Honeywell, Pentair, DowDuPont) are doing. Or it can mean increasing value by delegating functions once regarded as necessary parts of the whole; Apple’s outsourcing of complex, high-tech manufacturing, and the staggering capital requirements that go with it, is a dramatic example.

Here’s how that applies to Saban:

Late on a Monday night in early January, the University of Alabama’s quarterback, 19-year-old true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, threw a game-winning, 41-yard laser beam of a touchdown pass to give the Crimson Tide a 26–23 victory in the College Football Playoff. The win gave Alabama head coach Nick Saban his fifth national title in nine years at Alabama. Add an earlier one he won at LSU in 2003, and his six rings match Alabama legend Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most football championships by a college coach in the so-called poll era, dating back to 1936. Now that he’s succeeded to a historic degree, Saban is grappling with the sports version of what business guru Clayton Christensen famously dubbed the “Innovator’s Dilemma”—the fact that success today makes it hard to keep the edge you need to win in the future. But if the last few years are any indication, the grappling is going pretty well.

Saban, who was No. 11 on the same list back in 2016, is one of just two sports figures on the list. Serena Williams came in at No. 15.

And on cue, Alabama is already using the accolade as a recruiting tool.


As Fortune’s blurb indicates, Saban and Alabama’s edge to continue their winning ways doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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