THE TIMES: Who was your business figure of 2004? Times Online gives you the chance to vote for the figure you believe made the biggest impact on business in 2004: “BILL GAMMELL - inspired oilman at Cairn Energy”: “…there is no doubt that it has been the stock of 2004 on the London market, with the scale of the Scottish company's achievements in buying cheaply under-rated fields in India and making Shell look silly has been one of the business stories of the year.” (ShellNews.net) 25 Dec 04
Our nominees, in no particular order, are:
PHILIP GREEN - daring British retail tycoon
Forget Barbarians at the Gate. Phillip Green's audacious attempt to take control of Marks & Spencer, the struggling high street stalwart, and his personal feud with his old chum, Stuart Rose, provided corporate drama of the very highest order. Mr Rose battled off Mr Green in the summer but M&S's shares are still languishing around the 344p mark - some way below Mr Green's bid of 400p. Arcadia and Bhs, Mr Green’s companies, meanwhile, look to be fairing well in a choppy retail market.
LARRY PAGE and SERGEY BRIN - the duo behind Google
Such has been the success of the internet search engine invented by college drop-outs Larry Page and Sergey Brin its name has entered the everyday language. "To google" is now a verb and Mr Page and Mr Brin are now both billionaires following Google's controversial but vindicated IPO this year. The shares are trading at around $188, more than twice their launch price and Google dominates the expanding paid-search advertising market.
SIR TERRY LEAHY - chief executive behind Tesco success story
The doyen of British retailing goes from strength. On course to break the £2 billion profits barrier this year, Tesco accounts for more than one-quarter of UK grocery sales and is increasing its share of the non-food market. Under Sir Terry's tenure, Tesco has transformed itself from a shabby second placer to Sainsbury and now accounts for one in every eight pounds spent in Britain's shops.
WEN JIABAO - Chinese Premier
After driving across the country, Jim Rogers, George Soros’ former business partner, argued that China's communists are the canniest capitalists on the block. The assessment holds water today. Mr Wen’s decision to continue to peg the yuan to the dollar - making life easier for Chinese exporters and tougher for American manufacturers - continues to draw American criticism. But Standard & Poors, the rating agency, say that economic growth would clip along at 8 per cent in the Middle Kingdom next year. China - and Mr Wen – will be a focus for the world markets for the foreseeable future.
S RAMADORAI - chief executive at Tata Cosultancy Services, the Indian IT giant
Through outsourcing, Indian IT firms are changing the way the world does business. TCS, the company Mr Ramadorai heads, stands at the fore of the transformation. Already named Indian businessman of the year for 2004, Mr Ramadorai leads a company that deals with blue-chip clients across 55 countries and likes to boast that it has 100,000 man-years of experience under its belt. Labelled as a “disruptive” phenomenon, so revolutionary (and cheap) it will fundamentally change commerce, expect the influence of Indian IT expertise to grow.
BILL GAMMELL - inspired oilman at Cairn Energy
Cairn Energy has gone through a rocky patch recently, seeing its shares plunge by one-fifth after a disappointing set of results from one of its Indian oil fields. But there is no doubt that it has been the stock of 2004 on the London market, with the scale of the Scottish company's achievements in buying cheaply under-rated fields in India and making Shell look silly has been one of the business stories of the year. Besides, Mr Gammell's decision, along with three other Cairn directors, to plough into the market and scoop up shares after their recent fall, suggests a courage of his convictions about the business which is often lacking in other boardrooms.
ELIOT SPITZER - DA with an eye for a headline
The scourge of Wall Street analysts, mutual funds, the pharmaceutical industry, the major music labels and insurance broking, the New York District Attorney has had a busy 2004. The big cases against big business may have been assembled with an eye to a future political career, but his impact on attitudes towards corporate governance in the post-Enron era has been significant. Mr Spitzer this week said he and other state officials could now step back because their actions had helped bring federal regulators "back to life".
GORDON BROWN - Chancellor who broke his own rule?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer's Golden Rule looks in severe danger of becoming tarnished as the public finances slide into the red. And it is true that businessmen continue to complain of stealth taxes and ever increasing red tape. But, compared with so much of the world, the British economy is as sound as it has been in decades. Low unemployment, virtually non-existent inflation, seemingly widespread prosperity.