Crikey has produced plenty of interesting business lists over the years, including this one
on foreign ownership which now includes the legendary buyout firm KKR
after yesterday’s $1.83 billion purchase of Cleanaway from Brambles.

Another favourite is this list
of the 50 most successful Australians in overseas business, which now
includes Simon Beresford-Wylie, who will head the $43 billion
telecommunications giant that forms when Nokia and Siemens merge their
telco network equipment businesses.

However, we’ve decided to
tackle a new business list that will be potentially more interesting,
albeit highly subjective – the 20 most successful Australian business
figures over the past 25 years.

There will be some definitional
debates. Like how do you rate private entrepreneurs against public
company CEOs? And should any of the Australians who rose to run
foreign multinationals be included?

The three most
certain entries will be Rupert Murdoch, Dick Pratt and Frank Lowy – but
after that it gets difficult. Should someone like out-going Woolworths
CEO Roger Corbett be included when all he really does is efficiently
sell other people’s products?

The same applies to all those who
have prospered with cosy government licences – a group that extends to
bank, media and gaming CEOs. Does a mining CEO count when it’s
not that hard to dig big holes in the ground and flog the processed
dirt around the world? And surely we should have a bias in favour of people
who innovate and create new products which then prosper on a
competitive global stage. Billabong founder Gordon Merchant, CSL’s Brian
McNamee and Computershare’s Chris Morris all fall into that category.

there are endless numbers of sporting legends, Australia is not known
for its business heroes, so this will be a tricky exercise. Your
suggestions are encouraged to [email protected] as we’ll be publishing my 20 names on Thursday before others will also join the fray.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey