hHollywood has the Oscars, literature has the Booker, and sports has the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. But in the business world, there are few opportunities to recognize its celebrity accomplishments (besides boring trade awards or the occasional criminal trial). So every year the Observer Business Agenda column sets out to right that wrong. Here are our awards for the 2022 industry titans.
Matt Hancock Public Service Award
In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Britons have expressed their gratitude to those who went the extra mile to serve the public. A company linked to fellow Conservative Michelle Moon has reportedly gone even further: traveling an extra 5,000 miles to China to find protective equipment for the NHS, to be exact.
Of course, the rewards of Lady Mone go well beyond the weekly applause given to key employees.report file guardian A report in November revealed that she and her children also just happened to receive £29m from PPE company profits.
Mone has been “on leave” from the House of Lords to “clear her name” in an as-yet-unspecified manner and is therefore unlikely to attend the ceremony. But if she did, she’d probably use her speech to thank her husband, Douglas Barrowman, who also appears to have played a key role in PPE Medpro, and their attorneys, who would surely appreciate that they were representing their clients .
Bonnie and Clyde Best Couple Award
The business world is full of star-crossed lovers, but few of those romances ended in what prosecutors called “one of the greatest financial frauds in American history.”
By the time cryptocurrency exchange FTX crashed in November, Sam Bankman-Fried and Caroline Ellison were technically no longer in a relationship, according to reports. They are definitely connected financially. Strong ties between Bankman-Fried’s FTX and Alameda Research, an affiliated hedge fund of which Ellison is chief executive, are now at the center of prosecutors’ scrutiny.
Bankman-Fried was taken away in handcuffs by Bahamian authorities this month. Ellison has agreed to plead guilty to seven counts, including wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering (maximum sentence: 110 years), and she is cooperating with investigators. Because there’s never been a more painful story, and so on.
Andy Warhol Political Prize
Forget 15 minutes of fame. In the autumn, the Conservatives seemed to offer 15 minutes of economic time to anyone who wanted it.
To be fair, Kwasi Kwarteng fared slightly better: he was Chancellor of the Exchequer for 38 days (the shortest tenure at the Treasury in over a century for anyone who did not die while in office people).
Kwarteng almost sparked a financial crisis in a matter of weeks, so is the clear winner. But another formidable challenge from the same office: Nadhim Zahawi. He made an impressive bid for the two-day prime ministership, accepted the job, then told the man who hired him, Boris Johnson, to resign the next day. However, Johnson was sacked before sacking Zahavi, who somehow lasted 63 days.
President’s Club Memorial Award
Gender discrimination remains a major problem in UK business – but it is sometimes difficult to understand how widespread it is. So congratulations to the individual shareholders at Aviva’s annual meeting for showing the world that misogyny is still around and as imbecile as ever. One investor, apparently a member of the Richard Keys School of Women’s Psychology, told the meeting that CEO Amanda Blanc should boost returns by, uh, “wearing pants.”
High praise: Don’t blame it all on individual investor freaks. There are only nine female chief executives in the FTSE 100, so the board apparently hasn’t received the memo coming into 2023.
Gold Monopoly Board
This gong is the most impressive rental extraction of the year. As always, bonus points are awarded for products that are essential to human life, so there is only one winner in 2022: the energy industry as a whole.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine sent prices everywhere skyrocketing to insane levels. Big oil, renewables and nuclear power are all what Vladimir Putin described as “a killing spree”.
Oil and gas bosses in the industry have been richly rewarded for their good fortune, but Linda Cook, chief executive of Harbor Energy, the largest operator in the North Sea, is one of the best. As part of her £6m pay package, she received a £4.6m “Golden Greeting”. Cook is an expert in the art form: In 2010, after missing out on the top job at Shell, she received a “golden farewell” worth more than $30 million in severance and pension as consolation prizes.
High praise: Hayden Wood, boss of Bulb Energy, continues to draw a taxpayer-funded salary of £250,000 in the months after the company collapsed at a cost of £6.5bn. If you can get it, great.
free speech award
We salute Elon Musk for his commitment to “free speech absolutism,” which lasted about as long as it took him to lay off half the company’s workforce.
Musk has done a lot (some of it justified) with Twitter’s uneven moderation policies. However, that didn’t stop him from raising his own inconsistencies, including suspending the Twitter accounts of: a private jet tracker using public data; a journalist who posted links to other sources of that data; a rival social media company; posting links to other social media companies link people. Public squares became more chaotic.