Celebrating London’s financial and business community and its most successful individuals and firms
Personality of the Year
The final and arguably most prestigious category will see one of these five business titans crowned City A.M. Personality of the Year. Featuring FTSE bosses, self-made billionaires, a football chief hanging up his boots and the Square Mile’s very own superwoman, 2018 has presented us with an exceptionally heavyweight field from which to choose a winner.
British Airways London City is proud to sponsor City AM’s Personality of the Year award for 2019.
British Airways is celebrating its centenary year by celebrating the people of Britain. Because it’s the brilliant people of Britain who make us who we are. The nominations for this year’s Personality of the Year award are no exception, representing the best in their field and embodying the values we want to celebrate, the same values that make Britain the pioneering place it is today.
The most surprising boardroom appointment of the year came at the start of June from Britain’s best-known and perhaps best-loved mutual – the John Lewis Partnership. The struggling retailer, which includes Waitrose, is in need of some fresh thinking and has started with the blue-sky signing of Ofcom boss Sharon White as its new chairman. While lacking retail experience, White boasts a stellar CV, so much so that she had even been tipped to replace Mark Carney at the Bank of England. A rare example of a public figure with an untarnished reputation, White has held senior roles at the Treasury, Downing Street, the British Embassy in Washington, the World Bank and the Ministry of Justice. As Ofcom boss she oversaw the Sky sale and the separation of BT and Openreach, as well as steering the regulator through a shifting media landscape amid the emergence of Silicon Valley tech giants. At a time of great upheaval on the high street, White will certainly provide John Lewis with a fresh perspective.
The bloodiest and ultimately most successful shareholder rebellion of the year saw Julian Dunkerton wrest back control of Superdry, the fashion brand he co-founded in 2003. Annual sales grew to nearly £1bn under Dunkerton’s leadership thanks partly to the company’s ubiquitous hooded jackets, but the outspoken shopkeeper quit last year in dispute at the way the firm was being run by its new management. Jump to April 2019 and a dramatic emergency meeting saw Dunkerton win 51 per cent of shareholder support, convincing the leading members of the board to immediately resign. “The hard work starts now,” said a victorious Dunkerton, and he was not wrong – shares remain more than 70 per cent down since the start of last year. With Dunkerton’s enemies out of the way, all eyes are on the Cotswolds-dwelling fashionista and the plan to rescue his labour of love.
“Drastic Dave” used to be known for his penchant for making big, bold calls – but on the evidence of recent years perhaps Dependable Dave would be more apt. Lewis was brought in as the first externally-appointed boss of Tesco back in 2014 following years of mismanagement, soon discovering an alarming £250m black hole in the grocer’s accounts. With the scandal managed and consigned to the past, Lewis has been busy reducing costs while experimenting with both budget stores and higher-end products. The Unilever veteran’s energy and ruthlessness has maintained Tesco’s market share above the 27 per cent mark, making it far and away the UK’s most popular supermarket. Tesco’s strong management contrasts with a woeful period for its nearest competitor, Sainsbury’s, pushing shares up 19 per cent since the start of the year.
Former City lawyer Nicky Morgan energised Westminster’s leading financial watchdog after becoming chair in 2017, battling on behalf of everyday investors. This year the Treasury Select Committee has confronted various controversies including the collapses of London Capital & Finance and Lendy, and the suspension of Neil Woodford’s once-untouchable Equity Income Fund. Under Morgan’s leadership the watchdog sharpened its teeth, holding the Square Mile’s own regulator – the Financial Conduct Authority – to account over long-running cases such as the RBS GRG scandal. Having left her mark on the role, Morgan, a former education secretary, returned to the government in July despite being a prominent no-deal sceptic. As head of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, she now faces crunch decisions such as how the government should manage relations with Huawei, and how to achieve Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s aim of rolling out full-fibre broadband throughout the UK.
Lord (Simon) Wolfson
As many of its rivals collapse into administration or cling to Company Voluntary Agreements in a bid to survive, Lord Wolfson’s perpetually successful retailer Next has recorded a near-50 per cent share price jump since the beginning of the year, with results yet again beating City expectations. Wolfson is an impressive day-to-day businessman, prominent spokesperson for the retail sector, and a vocal Conservative activist. In 2019 he has taken the battle to landlords over pressures facing bricks-and-mortar retailers, while speaking out on a range of other political questions; never one to shy away from a sensitive topic, Wolfson has loudly called for liberalisation of the green belt and an open migration system post-Brexit.
- 2018: Alison Brittain, Whitbread Group
- 2017: Martin Gilbert, Aberdeen Asset Management
- 2016: Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
- 2015: Tony Pidgley, Berkeley
- 2014: Nigel Wilson, chief executive, Legal & General
- 2013: Carolyn McCall, EasyJet
- 2012: Lord Coe, London 2012 Olympics
- 2011: Gerald Ronson, Heron International
- 2010: Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
This category has been a permanent fixture since the City A.M. Awards started back in 2010.