As part of its 25th anniversary, CNBC is creating a definitive list of people who have had the greatest influence in business over the past quarter century. Determining who belongs on this list—and who should rank higher—has led to some spirited debates. Today, we pit Oprah Winfrey against Martha Stewart. After reading, cast your vote.
Oprah Winfrey has proved the power of the personal—the personal brand, the personal story, the personal endorsement and the personal confession.
Winfrey has built a media and cultural empire worth billions. It spans television (her OWN network), movies, magazines, radio, books and even politics, through her friendship with President Barack Obama. Her magic touch has also helped make celebrities of Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray, among others.
For a girl born into poverty in the South, Winfrey demonstrates that someone of any race or gender can make it in America. With a fortune estimated at about $2.9 billion, she has given more than $400 million to educational charities.
—By CNBC's Robert Frank
Martha Stewart is literally a household name. With careers as a model and a Wall Street stockbroker under her belt, Stewart started a catering company in the 1970s that eventually blossomed into an empire.
The domestic doyenne has written dozens of books and cookbooks, and thousands of consumer products bear her name. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has produced a number of magazines and television shows over the past 25 years. Her expertise made Stewart the first female self-made billionaire in the U.S.
The entrepreneur isn't without controversy. She was convicted and served time for obstructing justice and lying to investigators in 2004, but her image remained largely intact.
To riff on the title of her famous column, that's a "good thing," as Stewart is truly the equity behind the brand.
—By CNBC's Courtney Reagan