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NEW YORK -- In a move symbolic of its dominance in the retail industry, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has displaced oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. at the top of Fortune Magazine's list of top 500 companies, becoming the first service company to rise to the top of the list.
ExxonMobil, the Irving, Texas-based oil company, which held the top spot last year is now holding second. General Motors, which prior to last year held the number-one spot for 15 years, fell to three. Rounding out the top ten are Ford Motor Co.; Enron; General Electric; Citigroup; ChevronTexaco; IBM; and Philip Morris.
"How did a peddler of cheap shirts and fishing rods become the mightiest corporation in America?," asked Cait Murphy, who wrote the introduction to this year's list. "The short version of Wal-Mart's rise to glory goes something like this: In 1979 it racked up a billion dollars in sales. By 1993 it did that much business in a week; by 2001 it could do it in a day."
Wal-Mart's leap to the top of the Fortune 500 is emblematic of a large economic shift. When the magazine first published its list of the largest corporations in America in 1955, Wal-Mart didn't even exist. That year, General Motors was America's biggest company, and in every year since, either GM or Exxon has been number-one.
Geographically, California and New York top the list of states with the most Fortune 500 companies: California has 56, followed by New York with 51, 39 of which are in New York City. Texas comes in third with 46 companies, of which 20 are in Houston and six in Dallas. Illinois is fourth with 36 companies, and Ohio is fifth, with 28.
Other companies of note in the convenience store and petroleum marketing industry to make the list are El Paso Corp. operator of more than 300 Coastal convenience stores, at 17 and The Kroger Co. ranking 22nd.