International drinks giant Diageo - the name behind tipples ranging from Tanqueray and Smirnoff to Guinness - was named Britain’s Most Admired Company at the star-studded awards dinner at London’s Claridges Hotel last night. Last year’s winner, luxury homes and apartment specialist Berkeley Group, ran it a close second. Completing the trio of top awards, veteran CEO of WPP and the UK’s leading adman Sir Martin Sorrell picked up the coveted Britain’s Most Admired Leader award for the first time.
The awards, sponsored by BSI, were presented by Lord Heseltine, group chairman of MT’s parent company Haymarket Media, ably assisted by editor Matthew Gywther. Collecting his prestigious pewter star, Diageo’s Walsh, who has masterminded the firm’s transformation into the worlds leading premium spirits business, attributed the success to ‘great brands and great people’. Cheers to that, Paul.
Sorrell’s award was collected by his son Robert, as Sir Martin himself was - as he so often is - out of the country, racking up airmiles checking on his empire. Sir Martin is now the FTSE’s longest serving CEO and is a thoroughly deserving winner of the Most Admired Leader award. As MT editor Gwyther put it, ‘Alongside Constable’s Haywain and Stonehenge, Sorrell is fast becoming a national treasure.’
Meanwhile awards stalwart and fourth placed overall Rolls-Royce picked up the inaugural BSI Award for Continual Excellence, recognising the fact that it has had more top 10 finishes in the past five years than any other firm.
In a rousing after dinner speech, Lord Heseltine emphasised the urgent need for economic growth, and outlined his plans for achieving it as expressed in his recent government report 'No stone unturned in pursuit of growth'. Significant change cannot be achieved by improving the performance of only the few, it must come from helping the hundreds of thousands of averagely-performing British firms to raise their games, he said.
Hence his proposal, accepted by the government yesterday, for regional development funding based on proper, ground-up local planning rather than the usual Whitehall bunfight to grab the biggest share of budget.
‘But what can the large, world-class firms represented here tonight do to help?’ asked a member of the audience. Train more apprentices, share best practice, and lead their industries, he said.
He also called for reform of Britain’s fragmented trade bodies. ‘There are 3,600 trade associations in the UK. Would it not be better if there were 360?'
Other big-name winners to make it onto the podium included Co-Op group boss Peter Marks (Co-Op Bank won the Community & Environmental Responsibility Award), Aggreko CEO Rupert Soames (winner of the Business Support Services sector) and Miles Shipside, commercial director of uber-profitable property website Rightmove.
Commenting on the success of the evening, MT’s Gwyther said ‘Following on from this week’s rash of gloomy economic data, Britain’s Most Admired Companies is a welcome timely reminder of the many great British businesses that are working hard to generate wealth, create jobs and secure our economic future.’