Forbes 500

What Was the Forbes 500?

The Forbes 500 was an annual list of the top 500 U.S. companies published by Forbes magazine.

The now-defunct list was determined by ranking and scoring U.S. companies across five different categories. The Forbes 500 companies were ranked based on the size of their sales, profits, assets, employees, and market cap.

In 2003, Forbes stopped producing the Forbes 500 list and replaced it with a more extensive list—the Forbes Global 2000, a list of 2,000 companies. In this new list, the companies are ranked on four instead of five metrics—sales, profits, assets, and market cap. And as its name intuits, the list is a global one rather than a U.S.-based list.

Key Takeaways

  • The companies listed in the Forbes 500 list were the top players in the U.S. economy.
  • Forbes discontinued its annual U.S.-company-based list in 2003.
  • The Forbes Global 2000 is a list similar to the Forbes 500, but it includes companies worldwide.
  • Forbes 500 ranked the companies on the size of profits, sales, assets, market cap, and the number of employees.
  • To view the lists in the Forbes archives, you must pay for a subscription to the magazine.
  • The Fortune 500 is a list of U.S. companies ranked by revenues and produced by Fortune magazine.

Understanding Forbes 500

The Forbes 500 was a good way to determine the aggregate influence of the largest U.S.-based companies. The last Forbes 500 list ever created in 2003 was based on data from the previous year. At that time, the top companies were General Electric, Citigroup, Exxon Mobil, AIG, Bank of America, and Walmart (spelled in 2003 as Wal-Mart).

The new list, the Forbes Global 2000, is determined based on a similar premise but considers international firms.

To access the Forbes Global 2000 list, you must buy a subscription to Forbes, which offers both digital and print subscriptions. In addition to the Forbes Global 2020, the magazine provides other rankings, including the Forbes 400, a list of the wealthiest Americans, and the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires list.

The Forbes 500 list was discontinued in 2003, but the magazine continues to publish rankings under the Forbes Global 2000.

Special Considerations

The Fortune 500 from Fortune magazine is also a list of the largest 500 U.S. companies, and it was a competitor of the Forbes 500. Fortune 500 (still produced as of 2021) determines the largest U.S. companies based on annual revenues for their fiscal years.

Fortune 500 companies represent some of the most profitable companies in the U.S., and the Fortune 500 list is a mix of both public and private entities. The Fortune 500 list for 2020 is its 66th edition, and it appears the list will continue in 2021, although it is not published as of April 2021.

The 500 companies on the 2020 list represented $14/2 trillion in revenue, and Walmart, Amazon, and Exxon Mobil were the top three performing companies.

Article Sources
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  1. Forbes. "The Forbes 500s (archived)." Accessed April 25, 2020.

  2. Forbes. "Global 2000." Accessed April 25, 2021.

  3. "The Forbes 500s." Accessed April 25, 2021.

  4. Forbes. "Global 2000: The World's Largest Public Companies." Accessed April 25, 2021.

  5. Forbes. "Subscriptions." Accessed April 25, 2021.

  6. Forbes. "Forbes Real-Time Billionaires." Accessed April 25, 2021.

  7. Forbes. "The Forbes 400." Accessed April 25, 2021.

  8. Fortune. "Fortune Global 500." Accessed April 25, 2021.

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