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Jermaine Dupri

The music video for “Welcome to Atlanta,” the second track off his 2001 album, Instructions, tells the story of Dupri’s career: partying at Cheshire Bridge’s Club 112 with Ludacris, Lil Jon, Lil’ Bow Wow, Usher, T.I., Da Brat, and Monica (with cameos by Dominique Wilkins and Evander Holyfield). It’s a Who’s Who of the Atlanta hip-hop and R&B scene of the last fifteen years, and Dupri produced it. At fourteen, the precocious son of a band manager produced the group Silk Tymes Leather. At nineteen, he founded the So So Def recording label, shortly after an Atlanta preteen duo called Kris Kross—whom he discovered, polished, and wrote songs for—sold 7 million records. From there, he produced mega-acts TLC, Mariah Carey, and Usher. In 2010 the Grammy winner recorded the mixtape I Think I’m Berry Gordy. Earlier this year, Dupri launched Global 14, a social networking site, calling it the “coolest, hippest city on the Internet.”

M. Alexis Scott

She started her newspaper career in the 1970s, when women in the newsroom were still rare. She worked her way up the Cox Enterprises food chain over the next two decades, going from cub reporter to the corporate suite, becoming a vice president. She left in 1997 to take over the family business, Atlanta Daily World, the newspaper founded by her grandfather W.A. Scott II in 1928—the first black-owned daily in the United States. As publisher of the World, she’s reinvented the historic paper, creating a daily digital presence paired with a weekly print edition.

Sam Williams

In 1980 we first referred to Williams as a “Tennessee stud.” From the tiny town of Obion (population 1,083), Williams in the late 1960s was student body president at Georgia Tech and an intern for Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. He worked for John Portman for more than twenty years, eventually becoming chief operating officer, though the two had a mysterious falling-out in 1994—which ended in an out-of-court settlement. Williams has proved a strong consensus builder and nimble visionary, serving as president of Central Atlanta Progress during the Olympic era and as head of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce since 1997.

Guenter Seeger

I met Guenter Seeger in 1985, shortly after he was hired to take over the then unremarkable Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead. Seeger had previously owned a restaurant in Pforzheim, near Baden-Baden in southwest Germany, and his tenure there earned him a rare Michelin star. Recruited by an American company to become the chef in a Washington, D.C., hotel that never took off, Seeger was lured to Atlanta by fellow German Horst Schulze, then the Ritz’s general manager. When I asked him recently if he remembered his first impression of our city, he said, “Ja, Christiane, it wasn’t the center of the world—but Pforzheim wasn’t either.”

Bernie Marcus

Born at the beginning of the Great Depression to Russian immigrant parents recently arrived in New Jersey, Bernard Marcus started out with nothing—and if he gets his way, the self-made billionaire will go out like that, too. Fired in 1978 at age forty-nine from his job running a hardware store chain, Marcus—along with partner Arthur Blank—rebounded by changing the way America shops. The Home Depot is now the nation’s second-largest retailer, but its founders are equally proud of creating the culture of corporate integrity and employee loyalty that earned it recognition as the country’s most admired retail chain.

Alex Cooley

After dropping out of college—first UGA, then Georgia State—and a stint in California, Cooley managed a pizza joint on Roswell Road. It wasn’t doing well, so he brought in doo-wop performers, but it still went bust. A few months later, driving to Miami, he heard a radio station announce the Miami Pop Festival. He went and was blown away. Back in Atlanta, he and seventeen partners started the first Atlanta International Pop Festival. Janis Joplin showed up and said to him, “I want a drink and a fuck. In that order.” In July of 1969, weeks before Woodstock, she, Chuck Berry, and Led Zeppelin performed for more than 100,000 at the Atlanta International Raceway. Cooley later launched the Electric Ballroom and the Roxy, started Music Midtown with partner Peter Conlon (now president of Live Nation Atlanta), and was instrumental in saving the Fox. Last year he consulted on the renovation of the Buckhead Theatre. “Music,” he says, “has been my life. Now rock is respectable, though, which takes a little something away from it.”

John Wieland

Wieland practically invented McMansionized suburbia in the Southeast. His namesake company can lay claim to nearly 30,000 houses with such swanky perks as granite countertops. Everything from the square footage to the margins kept getting bigger, until the real estate bubble burst in 2007. At his peak in 2005, Wieland sold more than 1,700 units for an average of $448,000 per house. In 2010 his company disposed of only 435 lots. And last year, for the first time in its history, Wieland’s Smyrna-based company built more houses in other cities than in its own metro area.

Anne Cox Chambers

Even though Anne (with an e, please) Cox Chambers reigns as the richest person in Atlanta—her estimated $13.4 billion almost ten times what Arthur Blank could cough up—you wouldn’t necessarily know it after a visit with the Cox Enterprises doyenne.

Billy Payne

When Payne, a no-name former UGA defensive lineman and real estate lawyer, started pitching Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic bid, the city’s bold-faced businessmen presumably had the same reaction as the Atlanta Constitution: This man is a “screwball with a harebrained scheme.” Thanks to that screwball and unrelenting city booster—who strategically recruited former mayor and UN ambassador Andrew Young to charm International Olympic Committee members—Atlanta shocked the world by securing those centennial games in September 1990. Payne became president and CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, which sparked not only $3.5 billion in tourism and new construction but also massive repairs to infrastructure, a population boom, and a giant leap toward the laurel Atlanta had so long desired: true international city. In 2006 Payne took over as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, where he grabbed headlines last year for criticizing a disgraced Tiger Woods.

Anne Quatrano

When Quatrano and husband/business partner Clifford Harrison moved Bacchanalia—their nationally renowned fine-dining restaurant—from a Buckhead cottage to uncharted Westside in 1999, foodies fretted over whether it would survive. Not only did it flourish, but it also sparked redevelopment that eventually made Westside the city’s hottest dining neighborhood. With three other restaurants (Floataway Cafe, Quinones at Bacchanalia, and the latest, Abattoir) and gourmet market Star Provisions to run, Quatrano tries to spend time at each every day.

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