It used to be easy for moguls to flaunt their power. All they had to do was renovate the chalet in St. Moritz, buy the latest Gulfstream (GD) jet, lay off 5,000 employees, or marry a much younger Asian woman. By now, though, they've used up all the easy ways to distinguish themselves from the rest of us--which may be why a growing number of America's most powerful bosses have become vegan. Steve Wynn, Mort Zuckerman, Russell Simmons, and Bill Clinton are now using tempeh to assert their superiority. As are Ford Executive Chairman of the Board Bill Ford (F), Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, venture capitalist Joi Ito, Whole Foods Market (WFMI) Chief Executive Officer John Mackey, and Mike Tyson. Yes, Mike Tyson, a man who once chewed on human ear, is now vegan. His dietary habit isn't nearly as impressive as that of Alec Baldwin, though, who has found a way to be both vegan and fat at the same time.
It shouldn't be surprising that so many CEOs are shunning meat, dairy, and eggs: It's an exclusive club. Only 1 percent of the U.S. population is vegan, partly because veganism isn't cheap: The cost comes from the value of specialty products made by speciality companies with cloying names (tofurkey, anyone?). Vegans also have to be powerful enough to even know what veganism is.
"CEOs are smart. There just hadn't been enough exposure for people to glom onto this trend," says Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "The information is everywhere now. Instead of 'Better buy this blue chip,' it's 'Better eat vegan.' " When Newkirk learned Wynn had become a vegan, she didn't think the news was crazy. "Having dolphins in a small tank outside a casino is crazy," she says. "Ordering vegetables is not."