DIDO Harding is a keen racehorse owner whose horse Cool Dawn won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1998.
But perhaps the biggest gamble of her career was leaving the sector she had become synonymous with to take the reins at TalkTalk.
Harding made her name in supermarkets, first as an executive at Tesco, which she left in 2007 to head up Sainsbury’s convenience store division.
She took the TalkTalk helm after it was demerged from Carphone Warehouse at the start of last year.
It is thought her appointment was recommended by another Tesco graduate, John Gildersleeve, with the other demerged firm – BestBuy Europe – also being run by former Tesco high-flyer Scott Wheway.
Harding had a food background dating back far beyond Tesco. She grew up on a working farm in Dorset, specialising in pigs and cider apples.
She studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford before completing an MBA at Harvard.
Before Tesco she held senior management positions at Woolworths, Kingfisher and Thomas Cook. She has also served on the board of property company British Land.
She has long been marked as a shrewd businesswoman, named in several surveys as a leading light of British executive talent.