While Australia’s poor record in producing globally successfully businesses has improved a little in recent years, the opposite is happening on the question of individual Australians rising up the ranks of multinational companies.
The crop of globally prominent Australian CEOs that emerged over the past decade was quite staggering as you can see from the following list:
Australia’s Magnificent Seven CEOs – 2000-05
Douglas Daft, Coca Cola: 2000-04
Charlie Bell, McDonalds: 2004
Geoffrey Bible, Philip Morris: 1995-2002
Philip Bowman, Allied Domecq: 1999-2005
Rod Eddington, British Airways: 2000-05
Jac Nasser, Ford: 1998-2001
Bob Bishop, Silicon Graphics: 2000-06
However, things seem to have dropped off a little. Both Jac Nasser and Douglas Daft had difficult tenures leading Ford and Coke respectably and Charlie Bell didn’t even see out a year as McDonald’s CEO before he was struck down by cancer in 2004.
The current list of our best performers is still pretty impressive, but we’ve only got four prominent CEOs at the moment so the list is padded with blokes who head operations or finance:
Australia’s Magnificent Seven – 2007
David Mackay – Kellogg’s CEO
Philip Bowman – Scottish Power CEO
Doug Flynn – Rentokil CEO
Peter Tomsett – Placer Dome CEO
Doug Elix – IBM global sales and distribution boss
Clive Standish – UBS CFO
Richard Goodmanson – Du Pont COO
David Mackay got the Kellogg’s gig last December to be a new global flagbearer and Doug Elix is the one to watch as some observers tip he’ll be a future global CEO of IBM.
The other remarkable statistic on the question of expat CEOs came with the appointment of Kiwi Ralph Norris to replace David Murray as head of the Commonwealth Bank last year. This meant that for the first time, Australia’s five biggest companies by market capitalisation are run by foreigners:
Chip Goodyear (USA) – BHP-Billiton
Sol Trujillo (USA) – Telstra
John Stewart (UK) – National Australia Bank
John Macfarlane (UK) – ANZ
Ralph Norris (NZ) – CommBank
However, this is not a phenomenon that goes down the line because there are only 15 foreign CEOs in the top 100 ASX-listed companies. That said, there is no other developed country which has had to import CEOs to run its five biggest companies.