Britain's Most Admired Companies 2008: Tough Times turn Tables

It's a case of patience rewarded for Diageo. It reaps the benefits of more than a decade spent driving its brands upmarket, while past champions plummet in an economy that has hit the skids as we enter a new age of austerity. It has been a topsy-turvy old year for Britain's Most Admired Companies, reports Andrew Saunders.

Well, it's been a helluva year. You could have cleaned up at William Hill by laying bets back in December 2007 that within 12 months, governmental aid for the collapsed global banking system would total some £2trn. Or that the UK's balance-of-payments deficit would be heading towards £150bn. Or even that we'd be staring down the barrel of what's shaping up to be the nation's worst recession for a generation.

The dramatic shifts in the economic climate are reflected in the biggest shake-up for years at the top of 2008's Britain's Most Admired Companies (BMAC) awards - presented in association with Accenture. We've got a brand-new overall winner in drinks major Diageo, the first time that the top spot has been taken by a company that hasn't won it before since Cadbury Schweppes (as it then was) in 2004. And there's an unprecedented five new entrants in the BMAC Top 10, one of which - sixth-placed public transport group Stagecoach - has leapt an amazing 81 places.

Moving equally rapidly in the opposite direction, a whole raft of traditional BMAC stalwarts from sectors as diverse as banking, retail and construction have taken some serious tumbles down the league table. Bob Dylan could have been singing in 2008 rather than 1963 when he croaked: 'The times they are a-changin'.'

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