Pascal Soriot, Astrazeneca
Even before the pandemic struck, Astra’s chief executive was being hailed for leading the successful transformation of the British drugs giant from laggard to industry leader.
Hero: Astrazeneca boss Pascal Soriot has put the company – and Britain – at the forefront of science again through its groundbreaking vaccine partnership with Oxford University
Since then the 61-year-old Frenchman has put the company – and Britain – at the forefront of science again through its groundbreaking vaccine partnership with Oxford University, which gained approval from regulators yesterday.
The jab will be shipped around the world and provided to developing countries at cost.
The vaccine is also easier to store than others, making it easier to distribute. If that were not enough, Soriot has also just unveiled a £29billion swoop by Astra on US rare disease treatments specialist Alexion.
Andy Haldane, Bank of England
Among the economic doom and gloom this year, Haldane has been a ray of light.
He believes the UK economy will come roaring back to life in 2021 once a vaccine has been successfully distributed.
Hero: Among the economic doom and gloom this year, the Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane has been a ray of light
The £100billion of ‘accidental savings’ Britons have amassed during lockdown will, he argues, act as a catalyst once people have the confidence to spend again.
His most notable comment came in September when he warned that people’s pessimistic ‘Chicken Licken’ attitudes would only add to the difficulties posed by the pandemic. He compared negative forecasters to the children’s storybook character who feared the sky would fall in.
Hero: Within weeks of assuming the top role, Ken Murphy announced Tesco would hand back business rates relief
Ken Murphy, Tesco
Taking over Britain’s biggest grocer is a tall order at the best of times, and an even harder task in the middle of a pandemic.
But Ken Murphy made his mark this month when, within weeks of assuming the top role, he announced Tesco would voluntarily hand back to taxpayers £585million of business rates relief.
The decision kick-started a trend, with more than £1.9billion returned in the space of a few days as Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, Morrisons, Lidl, B&M and even Pets at Home followed suit.
Customers and taxpayers will be hoping his move sets the tone for his tenure at the top.
Amanda Blanc, Aviva
The insurance industry has hardly been a beacon of light during the pandemic, but Amanda Blanc has drawn attention for all the right reasons.
As the first woman to lead Aviva, she has wasted little time in getting her strategy for the firm off the ground.
Hero: As the first woman to lead Aviva, Amanda Blanc has wasted little time in getting her strategy for the firm off the ground
The Welsh rugby fanatic, 53, has already overseen the sale of four of Aviva’s non-core overseas divisions since she began in July – far more than her predecessor Maurice Tulloch, who only managed to agree one sale during his 16 months in the job.
Investors will be hoping she will succeed where he failed, and restore the fortunes of the insurance giant.
Hero: It has been a good year for make-up artist turned entrepreneur Charlotte Tilbury
Charlotte Tilbury, Make-up artist
As most of us have been locked in our homes for the majority of 2020, women’s desire to look good on those Zoom calls made it a good year for make-up artist turned entrepreneur Charlotte Tilbury.
Spanish perfume-maker Puig bought a majority stake in her eponymous make-up empire in a deal which reportedly valued it at more than £1.2billion.
Tilbury, 47, is now one of the UK’s richest female entrepreneurs. She has used her platform to support Women For Women International, an organisation helping female survivors of war rebuild their lives.
Jean-Sebastien Jacques, Rio Tinto
Mining boss Jean-Sebastien Jacques met his downfall after he oversaw the decision to blow up two 46,000-year-old rock shelters to expand an iron ore mine in Western Australia.
It was a flagrant insult to the local Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, who called it ‘soul-destroying’. Before the destruction, the Juukan Gorge caves had shown evidence of human habitation since the last Ice Age.
The 49-year-old Frenchman also botched his response by taking a fortnight to apologise.
The explosions provoked global outrage, with shareholders, campaigners and politicians launching blistering attacks.
For his textbook example of how not to respond to an ethical crisis he was fired in September after four years as chief executive. His reign ends today when finance boss Jakob Stausholm replaces him.
Villain: The collapse of Arcadia will make 2020 yet another year Sir Philip Green will want to forget
Sir Philip Green, Arcadia
The collapse of Arcadia, the owner of Topshop and other brands, will make 2020 yet another year Green will want to forget. It crashed into administration at the end of November, putting 13,000 jobs in doubt before Christmas.
Covid has hammered retailers, but a poor online strategy and a huge £1.2billion dividend taken by Green and his wife Tina in 2005 had undermined performance long before the pandemic.
Arcadia’s spiral will go down as another black mark against Green’s name, only a few years after the demise of BHS.
Paula Vennells, (EX) Post Office
When Vennells, 61, left the Post Office in 2019 she took with her more than £4.5million of earnings, a CBE and a plum job as chair of a top NHS trust.
But in 2020, more damning detail emerged about her role in the Post Office IT scandal.
Villain: Damning details have emerged former Post Office boss Paula Vennells’ role in the Post Office IT scandal
Over nearly two decades, up to 2,700 postmasters were prosecuted, sacked or chased for repayments when money went ‘missing’ from accounts. In fact, a computer glitch was to blame.
Vennells is accused of covering up the scandal and dragging the postmasters into a High Court battle that cost the taxpayer £90million.
It has forced her to give up her positions advising the Government and on the Church of England ethics committee, and the chairmanship of Imperial NHS Trust.
Now, detractors want her to be dismissed from the boards of Morrisons and Dunelm, for which she receives a combined £140,000 a year. Some MPs have called for her to be stripped of her CBE for services to the Post Office.
Mahmud Kamani, Boohoo
There are few more divisive figures in the City than the swashbuckling rag trader-turned-billionaire Mahmud Kamani.
The executive chairman of fast fashion giant Boohoo was already sneered at by environmentalists for selling dresses with a price tag as low as 8p.
Villain: Boohoo founder Mahmud Kamani’s empire threatened to crash down as the allegations of sweat shop working conditions sparked a sell-off
But in 2020 the reality behind the bargains emerged: factories in Kamani’s Leicester supply chain were paying staff as little as £3.50 per hour.
His empire threatened to crash as a sell-off halved Boohoo’s stock market valuation within days.
It brought in a QC, Alison Levitt, to investigate. Her probe revealed ‘excessive’ hours, life-threatening conditions and illegally low pay across Boohoo’s supply chain.
She reported that Kamani thought the allegations were ‘total b******s’. In a bid to resurrect the share price, he promised to fix his supply chain, appointing judge Sir Brian Leveson to oversee it.
He has every incentive – Kamani bags a £50million bonus if the market capitalisation rises to £7.55billion by June 2023. It is currently £3.9billion.
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