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The Rise of the Power Vegans

This article appeared in the November 4, 2010
issue of Businessweek magazine: 10_46/b4203103862097.htm

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Power Vegans November 4, 2010

The Rise of the Power Vegans
By Joel Stein


"Steve Wynn, Russell Simmons, Bill Clinton and a comparable cast of heavies are now using tempeh to assert their superiority.

As are Ford Executive Chairman of the Board Bill Ford, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, venture capitalist Joi Ito, Whole Foods Market Chief Executive Officer John Mackey, and Mike Tyson.

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...

This is how most guys go vegan. According to Bart Potenza, co-owner of Manhattan power vegan restaurant Candle 79, the rise of the power vegan coincides with the rise of the vegan second wife. As the Four Seasons of seitan piccata, Candle 79 regularly hosts not only Zuckerman but also News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and former Viacom CEO Tom Freston, who both have pro-vegan wives.

"I live in the shadow of a power vegan," says Freston, whose wife, Kathy, got Oprah to convert for a three-week trial. "I'm well on the way myself. It's pretty clear the benefits are undeniable and many." In other words, as Potenza says, "I think she has him pretty much handled."

For others, veganism is a moral imperative. In 2000, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone went to visit Farm Sanctuary, an animal rescue organization with a location in upstate New York, and returned a vegan. So far it hasn't hurt business. "My meal companions are sometimes curious at most," says Stone, "but never judgmental." Though that tends to happen when you run a company with an estimated value of more than one billion dollars.

Veganism's image, however, could still use some updating. While it remains associated with indie rock stars, such as Moby, and people with pixie haircuts, such as Ellen DeGeneres, it also counts among its newest converts ex-NBA star John Salley, Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, former National Hockey League brawler Georges Laraque, professional poker player Daniel Negreanu, and, less recently, pop star and amateur bodybuilder Madonna."

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Robert Cohen

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