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Disney's Anne Sweeney is elevated on Forbes list of most powerful women

The co-chairman of Disney Media Networks rises to No. 52 from No. 98 after the magazine acknowledges a data entry error.

August 21, 2009|Meg James

In the realm of power list injustices, this one was a stinker.

Forbes magazine released its annual "100 Most Powerful Women" list Wednesday, and Walt Disney Co.'s Anne Sweeney appeared to suffer a bruising fall from grace. A year ago, Sweeney -- who as co-chairwoman of Disney Media Networks oversees such influential TV institutions as ABC, the Disney Channel and ABC Family -- ranked a respectable No. 30.

This year, even though her job didn't change, Sweeney came in at No. 98.

Forbes, say it isn't so.

In fact, it wasn't. "It was a big, gigantic oops," Forbes spokeswoman Monie Begley said.

Twenty-four hours after issuing its list with great fanfare, Forbes revised the ranking, elevated Sweeney to No. 52 and apologized for the mistake. Begley faulted a data entry error: Someone typed "$8 million" to represent the revenue produced by Sweeney's division of Disney rather than the correct figure, "$8 billion."

"No excuses. It was terrible what happened to Anne Sweeney, but there was no malevolence intended toward her," Begley said. "She's an incredibly talented and successful woman."

The magazine uncovered the mistake after questions were raised by The Times and ABC. It acknowledged the mistake on its website Thursday.

This isn't the first time that Sweeney has been bounced around the Forbes list. In 2007, she ranked No. 77 -- another dizzying fall after the 2006 edition, when she was named the 15th most powerful woman in the world.

The Sweeney shuffle this year meant slightly lower rankings for several other Hollywood businesswomen. Amy Pascal, co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment, moved to No. 60 from No. 59, and MTV Networks chief Judy McGrath moved to No. 62. DreamWorks SKG Chief Executive Stacey Snider came in at No. 63.

For the second straight year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairwoman Sheila Bair and PepsiCo Chief Executive Indra Nooyi were ranked No. 1, 2 and 3. Not surprisingly, the highest-ranked woman from the media industry was Oprah Winfrey, coming in at No. 41, one spot behind First Lady Michelle Obama.

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meg.james@latimes.com

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