The credit crisis elevated BlackRock's Larry Fink and his West Coast rival Bill Gross at Pimco, fixed-income investors who actually seemed to know what they were doing, to new positions of prominence. It also created opportunities. BlackRock got some high-profile government assignments (managing the troubled assets of Bear Stearns and AIG, evaluating the portfolios of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, etc.). And in 2009 it acquired its way to the status of world's biggest asset manager. San Franciscobased Barclays Global Investors pioneered index funds as a division of Wells Fargo in the early 1970s, and more recently had become a big force in exchange-traded funds and quantitative active management. It was on the market because parent Barclays needed cash to shore up its capital base. BlackRock stood ready to pay the price. A mere 21 years after Fink founded it, the firm was on top of the world.