What Is the Fortune 100?

The Fortune 100 is comprised of the top 100 companies in the annual Fortune 500, an annual list of the 500 largest U.S. public and privately held companies published by Fortune magazine. Fortune creates the list by ranking public and private companies that report annual revenue figures to a government agency. The ranking is based on total revenues for the company's corresponding fiscal year.

The Fortune 100 described here is not the same as Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work for.

Understanding the Fortune 100

Fortune first published its first Fortune 500 in 1955. Since that year, the publisher has published an annual list of the top 500 revenue-producing companies.

The Fortune 500 in 1955 was led by General Motors, a company that held the top position for more than 30 years. General Motors had revenues of $9.82 billion to top the list. The remaining top 10 was rounded out by Exxon (now part of Exxon Mobil) at $5.66 billion; U.S. Steel at $3.25 billion; General Electric at $2.96 billion; Esmark at $2.5 billion; Chrysler at $2.07 billion; Armour at $2.06 billion; Gulf Oil at $1.71 billion; Socony (Standard Oil Company of New York, which became Mobil, and is now part of Exxon Mobil) at $1.70 billion; and DuPont at $1.69 billion.

Fortune includes in its list all public and private companies that file financial statements with the government, and are incorporated and operate in the U.S.

Requirements for the Fortune 100

At first, the magazine's editors were stricter on which business sectors were included. From 1955 to 1994, the Fortune 100 list only included businesses in the manufacturing, mining, and energy sectors. This left out many of the top earning companies across the country. However, Fortune did publish individual sector lists for the top 50 companies in the industries of banks, utilities, insurance, retailers and transportation.

In 1994, Fortune expanded its list of companies to include service companies, opening the door for many newcomers to join. This change added many new companies to the Fortune 100 list and also dramatically increased the amount of annual revenue required to make the prestigious list. A company had to generate $10.9 billion in revenue to make the 1995 Fortune 100 list, compared to $5.3 billion in 1994.

Walmart, which joined the list after 1994, was #1 in 2018 with $500.34 billion in revenue. It has been a frequent top 10 company since its inclusion.

The Fortune 100 list does not include foreign companies, though many of the listed companies have significant international operations.

Key Takeaways

  • The Fortune 100 is comprised of the top companies in the larger annual Fortune 500 list.
  • The Fortune 500 has been around since 1955 and ranks companies by reported revenues for their fiscal year.
  • The Fortune 500 changed in 1994 to include a wider range of company types from different sectors.