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January 26, 1998

Elana Amsterdam
President, Ecosav Inc.

When Elana Amsterdam started a recycling consulting firm four years ago, she tried to forget she was taking on the mob.

Even after one trash-hauling firm offered a bribe and another threatened to ”rip her lips off,'' she looked the other way. But when prosecutors indicted dozens of local carters, saying they were part of a cartel run by organized crime, Ms. Amsterdam realized she recognized almost every suspect.

”I couldn't believe all of the folklore about the hauling industry,'' she says. ”It turned out in the end a lot of it was true.''

With the cartel gone and competition robust, businesses are eager to reduce trash costs, and Ms. Amsterdam's six-employee Ecosav is thriving. After initially focusing on small businesses, it has begun to attract big-name clients, including Williams-Sonoma and The Durst Organization. The company is now expanding outside New York City, and Ms. Amsterdam says her goal is to serve 5,000 locations across the country within two years.

She was inspired to become an environmental consultant after working as a waitress and noticing how little garbage restaurants and bars recycled. Her focus has since shifted from persuading companies to separate their trash to helping them reduce their entire waste stream.

”I came into this as an environmentalist,'' she says, ”but what we are achieving for clients is not so much protecting the environment as saving them money.''

-Philip Lentz
Richard D. Beckman
Vice president and publisher
Gentlemen's Quarterly

As a young soccer player, Richard Beckman was shorter and slower than many of his teammates. But sheer willpower got him to the semipros. As a publisher in the big leagues, he's just as determined. And even more competitive.

”I want to leave an impression on everything I do,'' says the native of Manchester, England.

He's making his mark at Conde Nast's GQ, where he arrived in November 1995. Since then, he has been building ad pages and enhancing the book's image, wooing advertisers with a potent combination of intelligence and relentless persuasion. Revenues have grown 57% during his tenure, to $69.3 million.

The centerpiece of his turnaround plan was the Men of the Year awards, a glitzy, Hollywood-style production that attracts celebrities and high-profile sponsors. Last year's event brought the magazine 312 advertising pages for its special issue in November.

Mr. Beckman, who has a reputation as a tough boss, calls his office culture ”investment bank meets Broadway show.'' It must be a good mix, because 14 colleagues followed him to GQ from his previous post as publisher of Conde Nast Traveler. He had joined the publishing business after his soccer career washed out.

”Because of my passion, I'm very demanding,'' says Mr. Beckman. Arriving at the office every morning at 7, he cranks up his stereo and asks himself, ”What can I do to be better?''

-Valerie Block Jamey Bennett
Vice president
Reed Elsevier Business Information

Jamey Bennett tried for years to break into the clubby world of New York book publishing, to no avail.

So it was no small gesture when he went out of his way recently to thank the head of Doubleday Bantam Dell for not hiring him a couple of years back.

The rejection, he says, forced him to become an entrepreneur, and less than a week later he landed an investor for BookWire, an on-line venture he had spent months developing.

The Web site soon became a popular news and gossip service for the publishing industry, and in 1996, Mr. Bennett sold it to Cahners Publishing Co. for more than $1 million.

Impressed by his on-line savvy, Cahners' parent, $6 billion Reed Elsevier Inc., asked Mr. Bennett to develop its interactive business and to help put some of its top entertainment and media titles on-line.

It's the type of undertaking that some of the biggest names in the media business have botched. Mr. Bennett has vowed to learn from those failures.

The New Jersey native is a self-taught cyberphile. An English and art history major at Bucknell University, he learned the publishing business by working on the production side in small houses. He got hooked on cyberspace after reading the work of MIT guru Nicholas Negroponte.

”What we're creating is a total-entertainment business brand,'' Mr. Bennett says. ”It's not about where Gwyneth Paltrow is having lunch.''

-Jon Birger

Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc