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And they’re off: The career trajectories of FDs

“Give a date, give a rate, but never both.” Well worn and
rather sage, this favourite economists’ maxim, about predicting both the
exchange rate and when that rate will hit, hints at the occupational hazard
contained in daring to forecast which way markets or assets are going to move at
any given time. It’s something that we’ve all had a refresher on in the past
couple of years. But we can’t blame the bookies (or the economists) for carrying
on regardless, it being their job to soothsay.

Three punts in particular, however, caught Financial Director’s eye
at the turn of the new year: Paddy Power’s bets on who might be British
Airways’s next chief executive if Willie Walsh was to go in 2010, who might
replace Morrisons CEO Marc Bolland when he makes his previously announced leap
to Marks & Spencer, and who will be ITV’s next CEO. We’re interested because
it looks likely that a handful of FDs may be in the running for three of British
businesses’ most challenging jobs. In all three cases, the incumbent FDs are the
current favourites with Paddy Power’s clientele.

It is worth noting that the future movements of all three are uncertain
anyway at the moment. BA’s Keith Williams has already been designated CEO of
BA’s operating business when it merges with Iberia (as the plan is to continue
operating as two separate entities, owned by one holding company) but it remains
to be seen whether this will be a permanent arrangement, or one that sees
through the transition.

Morrisons’ FD Richard Pennycook has kept away from the limelight as
speculation over his next move rolls on, but the breadth of his experience means
that if he doesn’t become CEO at the supermarket giant he will surely have to
move onwards and upwards.

Meanwhile, ITV’s former FD and chief operating officer, John Cresswell, is on
his second stint as the broadcasting company’s interim CEO following Michael
Grade’s departure last October and Paddy Power gives him odds of 4/1 to make
that permanent, despite him having already said that he intends to leave ITV
when a new CEO is found.

Not only those FDs’ names in the odds could be up for promotion. In the case
of ITV, we’ve identified three more finance heads that could be moving on up if
any of their respective CEOs who are in the bets take the job. There seems to be
a rich mine of experienced, well-regarded FDs behind these CEOs and we would
expect them to be considering their next move if their chief executives are.

We think the career trajectories of the FDs in the running for elevation –
either explicitly through Paddy Power’s odds, or because they’re in the frame by
way of their current position making it a logical consideration – are worth
examination for tips all FDs looking to build on their own positions in 2010 can

Richard Pennycook, FD, Morrisons

Turnaround guy par excellence, Pennycook delivered the impossible by restoring
the City’s faith in the Yorkshire grocer after its botched Safeway acquisition.
Proof that he can more than handle the numbers is in abundance, but he is an
unknown quantity in terms of management style and charisma. Some misread his
unflappability as boringness – potentially a PR stumbling block. Paddy Power
places him as the favourite at 11/8 to become Morrison’s next CEO. But he may
find the siren call of all those stricken businesses out there needing a steady
hand too tempting.

Tom Athron, FD, Waitrose
Waitrose managing director Mark Price has odds of 9/4 to defect to Morrisons –
but the story for Financial Director is that this could create an opening at the
upmarket grocer for its current FD, Tom Athron, who was John Lewis Partnership’s
buying director before becoming FD at Waitrose last summer. Stacked against him
is the fact that he’s barely settled into the top finance role, but in his f
avour is his experience at Partnership level, and outside of finance too.

Brian Mullens, FD, McDonald’s UK
Fifteen years in the burger giant’s operations across finance, McDonald’s CEO
Steve Easterbrook is on odds of 10/1 and could certainly import some interesting
insights into how a fast-moving, truly international business with enormous
economies of scale makes money – if he doesn’t mind relocating from London to
Bradford. His FD, Brian Mullens, is also a master in the art of squeezing supply
chains and the vagaries of financing a huge consumer-facing outfit. We think if
Easterbrook goes, Mullens may well push to succeed him.

Ian Dyson, FD, Marks & Spencer
We recently flagged up the potential for an FD swap between M&S and
Morrisons if Pennycook follows Bolland there and Dyson succeeds him at
Morrisons. In any case, surely Dyson’s days at M&S are numbered, having
missed out on the top job after being widely seen as a front-runner. Odds of
12/1 reflect Dyson’s pedigree having been mentored by Sir Stuart Rose and spent
time at a number of respectably sized UK plcs. But in reality it may be unlikely
Dyson will land the Morrisons big seat if he wasn’t deemed right for it at M


Keith Williams, CFO, British Airways

The favourite with odds of 2/5, Williams will become CEO of the operating
company BA will become when it is merged with Iberia and will sit on the board
of the merged entity’s holding company – so he has already ascended in some
ways. But Iberia’s CFO Enrique Dupuy du Lôme has been named group CFO for the
merged entity. That could be because Williams is being prepared to succeed
Willie Walsh as BA’s CEO, as the bet suggests, or it could mean that Williams
will commit to seeing the merger through and look for new horizons with a very
impressive CV.

Jim Lawrence, former CFO, Unilever
Lawrence walked from the consumer goods giant at the close of 2009 after
supposedly missing out on promotion to CEO and is currently considering his
options. As a non-executive director of BA since 2006, he knows the business and
the board well, but given the number of airline CEOs favoured by Paddy Power’s
odds he is competing with for the BA job (Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary may be a
tongue-in-cheek bet, but Qantas’s Alan Joyce, Virgin Atlantic’s Steve Ridgeway
and Iberia’s Antonio Vazquez are certainly not) odds of 10/11 may be too

Julie Southern, CFO, Virgin Atlantic Airways
Southern has experience running an airline in trouble having overseen the
reshaping of Virgin Atlantic after the 9/11 attacks, not long after completing
her first year with the business. If her boss Steve Ridgeway (with odds of 33/1)
happens to take the BA job in 2010, she may consider stepping up to make her
mark outside of pure finance at the end of a decade under Richard Branson’s

John Cresswell, interim CEO, ITV

Cresswell was FD at ITV and moved into the COO role before being made interim
CEO last Autumn on the departure of Michael Grade. A seasoned finance bod, he’s
been interim CEO for ITV once before so he knows the ropes, but has already
ruled out taking the top job despite the bookies putting odds of 4/1 against his

Ian Griffiths, FD, ITV
Cresswell’s successor as FD, Ian Griffiths, did not make the bookies’ list and
is not as experienced an FD as Cresswell. But he appears to have won respect for
his cost-cutting work from ITV chairman Archie Norman, himself an ex-FD – and
Norman is under pressure to find a new chief executive after a dismally
fruitless year-long search. Probably a long shot, but one to keep an eye on.

John smith, CEO, BBC Worldwide
A former director of finance, FD and COO at the BBC – and CEO at Worldwide since
2005 – Smith can boast some powerful financial achievements, including setting a
target to double pre-tax profit at the division inside two years: it was
achieved in three. He’s on at 14/1 with Paddy Power’s bet. A candidate with a
powerful argument for his appointment in the ITV CEO job.

Neil Chugani, CFO, BBC Worldwide
Barely in his forties, Chugani’s arrival at BBC Worldwide in 2007 imported a
tasty little black book of corporate finance contacts that have proven useful in
its M&A strategies. Chugani’s formative professional years were spent at
BskyB in roles including deputy CFO, director of corporate finance and investor
relations and treasury, before he moved into investment banking with Goldman
Sachs where he advised media clients. He is regarded as a rising star in both
finance and broadcasting so could be a contender for John Smith’s job if he

Judith McKenna, CFO, Asda
Asda CEO Andy Bond has odds of 33/1 against his name for the big chair at ITV –
wonder if his early years working under ITV’s new chairman Archie Norman as a
marketing manager for the then-independent grocer gives him the edge? – which
puts ASDA CFO Judith McKenna in the frame for promotion after an eventful decade
in the job. McKenna is used to presenting to investors and has worked around the
business outside of finance, too. Maybe a cheeky outside bet for the FD job at
Morrisons if Pennycook departs – or, if we’re pushing the boat out, the CEO job?

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