Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » Associated British Food’s Bason’s career pointing in the right direction

He did not win on the night – coming up against superstar FD Richard Pennycook will always be tough – but Financial Director thought it worth nodding at John Bason’s shortlisting as FTSE-100 FD of the year in the 2011 FD’s Excellence Awards, which concluded in May.

Finance director at swimsuits-to-cheese business Associated British Foods (ABF), Bason is second in command to chief executive George Weston, a member of the founding family of the business who remain a dominant force within it. He has spoken recently about the tough negotiations he has led in recent months with retailers of his food brands when commodity price spikes necessitated raising the cost price of its products.

The group reported in April that its popular clothing retailer Primark cut its full-year earnings forecast (which is surprising if you have visited the flagship Marble Arch store in London and witnessed the hordes of teenage girls fighting over the last kaftan), but its food business brought in 8.6 percent more revenue in the first half of 2011 than the same period in 2010, even against the commodities run.

Bason was in good company within the awards’ FTSE-100 FD category. Pennycook was not a surprise choice as winner – his supermarket business Morrisons continues to go from strength to strength since he landed in the days of post-Safeway merger disaster – while Severn Trent’s Michael McKeon, Experian’s Paul Brooks and IMI’s Douglas Hurt made an appearance too.

In June, Bason joins the services group Compass as a non-executive director and will become its audit chairman as well, succeeding National Grid FD Steve Lucas in his first foray into external roles after more than a decade in the finance job with ABF (unusually, ABF’s own FD Andrew Martin is not a member of the audit committee). That will see him work alongside the likes of Sir James Crosby, ex-chief executive of HBOS and Sir Ian Robinson, who among other things is a member of the UK Takeover Panel. They are both great contacts for an ambitious FD to be rubbing shoulders with. He also keeps his hand in the charity world as a trustee of Voluntary Service Overseas and he is deputy chairman of food charity FareShare.

ABF has always retained a slightly low-key tone given its family backing, and we have not heard much from Bason in the past. But we think he may be one to watch as he makes his moves into the non-executive world. ?