How P&G spawned a raft of UK leaders

In the 1990s, P&G became an unlikely breeding ground for future leaders, to rival the talent factories of Goldman Sachs and McKinsey. Why? The execs were taught the power of selling.

by James Ashton

For Tim Davie, it was Vidal Sassoon shampoo and Insignia body spray. Jeremy Darroch knew all about Clearasil skin cream and Vicks VapoRub. Gavin Patterson’s formative years were scented with Old Spice aftershave, while Paul Geddes was an expert on Max Factor cosmetics.

Rather than a peek into the bathroom cabinets of some of the UK’s best-known business leaders, these are the everyday brands that coloured their early careers. What connects the BBC’s director-general to Sky’s executive chairman and the former leaders of BT and Direct Line is not just their corporate success, but how they started out. They are members of a remarkable club who all learnt their trade during the 1990s at US grocery giant Procter & Gamble, where sales and marketing skills reigned supreme.

That P&G was a blue-chip training ground was never in doubt. Ever since James Gamble invented Ivory soap and his brother-in-law Harley Procter marketed it as the revolutionary bar that floats in the bath, the company has been a promotional powerhouse.

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