Nike Inc., Apple Computer Inc. and a Boise, Idaho, supermarket and drug chain are widely different corporations, but they are united by a common element: they are still headed by their founders.

Moreover, U.S. companies being run by their founders generally fared better in net income last year than did the country's 25 largest non-financial corporations, according to a survey by Venture magazine of the 100 largest businesses whose founders are still at the helm.

And in yet another shot in the arm for entrepreneurial staying power, the survey found that only four of these 100 businesses were established during the 1970s. The oldest, Stop & Shop Co. of Quincy, Mass., dates back to 1914.

Three out of the first five firms that top this year's list, which was compiled on the basis of year-end 1982 data, are manufacturers of computers and components. The sixth spot went to a hospital management company.

The No. 1 entrepreneur in terms of sales is once again Oscar S. Wyatt Jr. of the Coastal Corp., a Houston oil and gas company that had revenues of $5.8 million. In a very bad year for energy-related industries, Coastal managed to show a 30 percent gain in net income through cost-cutting measures such as the lay-off of 11 percent of its work force.

The other top spots went to Control Data Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Albertson's Inc., a Boise, Idaho, supermarket and drug chain, and Digital Equipment Corp. Advancing to sixth place from the rank of 12 last year was Hospital Corp. of America, which had a 47 Still at Corporate Helm Top 100 Founders By Nancy L. Ross Washington Post Staff Writer

Nike Inc., Apple Computer Inc. and a Boise, Idaho, supermarket and drug chain are widely different corporations, but they are united by a common element: they are still headed by their founders.

Moreover, U.S. companies being run by their founders generally fared better in net income last year than did the country's 25 largest non-financial corporations, according to a survey by Venture magazine of the 100 largest businesses whose founders are still at the helm.

And in yet another shot in the arm for entrepreneurial staying power, the survey found that only four of these 100 businesses were established during the 1970s. The oldest, Stop & Shop Co. of Quincy, Mass., dates back to 1914.

Three out of the first five firms that top this year's list, which was compiled on the basis of year-end 1982 data, are manufacturers of computers and components. The sixth spot went to a hospital management company.

The No. 1 entrepreneur in terms of sales is once again Oscar S. Wyatt Jr. of the Coastal Corp., a Houston oil and gas company that had revenues of $5.8 million. In a very bad year for energy-related industries, Coastal managed to show a 30 percent gain in net income through cost-cutting measures such as the lay-off of 11 percent of its work force.

The other top spots went to Control Data Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Albertson's Inc., a Boise, Idaho, supermarket and drug chain, and Digital Equipment Corp. Advancing to sixth place from the rank of 12 last year was Hospital Corp. of America, which had a 47 percent increase in sales, a 55 percent earnings gain and a 49 percent increase in employes as the results of acquiring 55 companies in 1982.

Due to death, retirements and mergers, 22 companies that were listed last year were excluded this time. The best known of these was Edwin Land of Polaroid, who retired.

Last year's winners in terms of growth were Apple Computer Inc. and MCI Communications Corp. Apple, which ranked 73rd last year, zoomed up to 47th place on the strength of a 75 percent gain in sales and a 57 percent increase in profits. MCI, based in Washington, made an even more spectacular leap to No. 53 from No. 97, with a 116 percent rise in revenues and a 309 percent profit.

Other companies that showed excellent results were Nike Inc., the athletic footwear manufacturer, whose profits rose 88 percent; Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Coachmen Industries Inc., both recreational-vehicle manufacturers, whose profits went up 318 and 179 percent respectively.

The only other Washington-area company on the list is 56th-ranked Dynalectron Corp. of McLean, which is involved in diversified technical services. It had a net loss of 5 percent.