Meet the bosses' bosses of British business

The UK's 10 leading chief executives, as chosen by their peers
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Sir John Browne is the 52-year-old head of BP Amoco, the oil giant, which employs around 107,000 people globally. He has been applauded as one of the most impressive chief executives in the world. Sir John took control of BP in 1995 when it had a market value of £20bn and was already a significant company. But after engineering the acquisitions of Amoco and Arco, he has taken BP into the super league; the company now has a market capitalisation of £140bn.

Born in Hamburg, Sir John was educated at King's School in Ely, Cambridgeshire. BP then sponsored his degree in physics at St John's, Cambridge, where he gained a first. He joined on graduation as a trainee field pet-roleum engineer in Alaska, and apart from a break to get his MBA at Stanford in the US, he has been with the company ever since.

He claims he rose to the top gradually by focusing on achieving short-term goals. He absorbed every piece of advice he could and ensured that he excelled at everything he did.

"Once in charge," he recently said, "the question in my mind was could we survive as a middleweight company? Is it up or out? It was clear that it had to be up, otherwise the chances are we wouldn't exist."

Sir John denies his reputation for being autocratic, outlining his management style as follows: "You have to listen to what people say. You can't do this job by force. Everyone here is a volunteer. They're not here in servitude and they have to enjoy what they're doing."

John Allan, 53, joined Ocean Group as chief executive in 1994, and after the merger of Ocean and Exel in 2000, is now chief of Exel, the logistics group. A mathematics graduate, he started his business career in marketing with Lever Brothers.

"You have to create and communicate a clear and motivating vision; develop a strong team, as businesses are rarely the creation of one person; and make the business truly customer focused."

After an international career in the motor industry, Keith Butler-Wheelhouse, 55, became chief executive of engineering company Smiths Group (then Smiths Industries) in 1996. He led the merger with TI last December.

"I work with people; they don't work for me. We all work for the business. I try to provide the leadership so we can do things to make the business better."

Invigorating the monolithic Unilever has been the mission of Niall Fitzgerald, 55, since he became joint chairman and chief executive in 1996 after 30 years with the company. He instigated a cull of more than 1,200 brands and set up the merger with Bestfoods.

"More and more, leaders will need to inspire and develop the consensus in teams on what's to be done ... and then give people the freedom to do it."

Dr Jean-Pierre Garnier, 53, was made chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline in December 2000. He has received the Chevalier dans l'ordre de la Légion d'honneur in France, which recognises individual accomplishments, and the Oliver R Grace Award for advancing cancer research.

"You have to look at performance and integrity as two interlocked things. In doing so, you create the basis on which to build your success."

Sir Christopher Gent, 53, started as a management trainee with National Westminster Bank in 1967. He became managing director of Vodafone in January 1985, when the first mobile service was launched, and in 1997 was appointed chief executive. He has steered the group through the acquisition of AirTouch of the US and Mannesmann of Germany.

"Our results highlight our global presence, strong funding position and successful execution of strategies."

Terry Leahy, 45, joined Tesco as a marketing executive in 1979 and became chief executive in 1997. He has turned the supermarket chain into the UK's biggest and most profitable retailer.

"Tesco has listened to what customers want. We looked at how they behave again and again. People now accuse us of being fanatical about customers, which I take as a compliment."

Tom McKillop, 58, trained as a chemist and joined ICI in 1969. After a successful career in research and development, he was appointed chief executive of Zeneca's pharmaceuticals business. In 1999, when Zeneca merged with Astra of Sweden, he became CEO of AstraZeneca.

"I am determined we stay focused on bringing our new range of treatments to patients who need them."

John Sunderland, 55, joined Cadbury in 1968 and became chief executive in 1996. Committed to the creation of value for shareholders, he has seen Cadbury Schweppes' share price double in the past five years and earnings grow consistently.

"My job is a privilege. We have a great management team, sell brands people love around the world, and through this grow the value of the business every day for share owners."

After taking over as chief executive of Sage Software in 1994, Paul Walker, 44, guided the company through five years of high growth. In 1999, he acquired Peachtree and Best Software in the US and Sage entered the FTSE 100.

"My success has depended on working with motivated people and remaining open to new possibilities."

Comments