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Gabriella: Top Five CEOs in British Energy and Manufacturing.
Gina: Yes, we’ll tell you about the big names in the energy and manufacturing field, and a little about what they have achieved. I think we should begin, don’t you?
Gabriella: Are you ready, listeners? Right in at number 5 we have the only woman on the list, Angela Ahrnedts.
Gina: Ahrendts is American but she is CEO of one of the most British companies there is, so she makes the list.
Gabriella: What company is she CEO of?
Gina: Burberry.
Gabriella: Ah, the famous Burberry check! Yeah, that’s very British!
Gina: She had worked for many other clothing companies and manufacturers before moving to Burberry in 2006. She became CEO in July of that year.
Gabriella: Burberry has really become popular and famous again over the last few years. You see the Burberry check everywhere again.
Gina: Since Ahrendts became CEO, the company has branched out into online sales, added cosmetics to its product catalogue and made itself high profile again, thanks to the use of famous models and celebrities.
Gabriella: Has that helped the sales?
Gina: Burberry’s net income in 2012 was £265 million. But most importantly, and this is the real reason why Ahrendts is on the list, she was the highest paid CEO in the UK that year with a salary of £16.9 million. It was the first time a woman has ever topped the list.
Gabriella: That’s a real sign of how she has pushed Burberry and how successful it has been.
Gina: Yes, it is! Shall we move onto number 4?
Gabriella: Okay, number 4 is Sam Laidlaw from Centrica.
Gina: Laidlaw trained as a solicitor but began working for the US oil company Amerada Hess. While working for them he helped build their North Sea Oil business. He worked for other oil companies before moving to Centrica in 2006.
Gabriella: Centrica is the parent company of British Gas, isn’t it?
Gina: It is. So Laidlaw is the CEO of the biggest energy provider in the UK. Since he became CEO, Centrica have spent billions on obtaining more energy sources and also bought a stake in a nuclear power generator.
Gabriella: Centrica is definitely investing in the future.
Gina: They are, although the present is looking pretty bright too with a 2012 net income of £1.273 billion!
Gabriella: I’d say so! In at number 3 is John Rishton.
Gina: Rishton studied Economics at university and then moved into transport and aerospace companies. He spent several years at the Ford Motor Company before moving onto British Airways.
Gabriella: What was his role at BA?
Gina: He was the company’s Finance Director. He led a project to help restructure the company and reduce its debts. He left BA and moved to Ahold where he eventually became CEO. He then moved to Rolls-Royce in March 2011 to become their CEO.
Gabriella: He has plenty of experience in aerospace companies then!
Gina: Since he became CEO of Rolls-Royce the company won a contract with the Ministry of Defence to develop nuclear-armed submarines, so it isn’t all aerospace!
Gabriella: well… Apparently not! Now, I want to know what the Rolls-Royce net income was in 2012.
Gina: You always want to know the money!
Gabriella: I can’t help it! I like it when we’re talking billions instead of millions.
Gina: Okay, it was £1.559billion.
Gabriella: Not bad… not bad! I imagine that development costs must be very high for companies such as Rolls-Royce.
Gina: Yeah, I’d guess so.
Gabriella: Right, our next CEO is number 2 – Sir Andrew Witty.
Gina: It’s a sure sign that they’ve achieved a lot in their respective field when they have a title like that.
Gabriella: Yes, knighthoods and lordships are not very common in the UK, although we’ve learnt about several already in this series and I’m sure more will appear in later lessons.
Gina: I’m sure! Witty joined Glaxo UK in 1985 as a management trainee. Eventually after a series of mergers Glaxo UK became GlaxoSmithKline and he became CEO in May 2008.
Gabriella: He’s been with GSK for a long, long time.
Gina: He joined the company straight after graduating from university.
Gabriella: Since he became CEO, GSK has made some major changes, hasn’t it?
Gina: In February 2009, he announced that some of GSK’s drugs would have their prices cut by 25% in the 50 poorest countries in the world. The reason for this was to make them more accessible.
Gabriella: It’s unusual for a CEO to announce such large discounts. It’s a case of putting the consumer before the profit margin.
Gina: It is. GSK have also released some drug patents into a universal patent pool so that further drugs can be developed using their already existing blueprints. His knighthood came in 2012 and was for services to the pharmaceutical industry and the economy.
Gabriella: And what is his service to the economy? How much are GSK earning each year?
Gina: I knew that you were going to ask that. The net income for 2012 was £4.744billion.
Gabriella: Looks like the price cut works…
Gina: It doesn’t seem to be doing harm to the profit margins!
Gabriella: Now, I think we should move onto our number 1. The top of our list is Steve Holliday, the CEO of National Grid.
Gina: He studied Mining Engineering at university and learnt about the oil industry during his time working at Exxon. Eventually he became the operations manager at one of their oil refineries.
Gabriella: When did he join National Grid?
Gina: He joined in 2001 and was responsible for the National Grid’s UK and Europe activities. He moved around the company a little before becoming CEO in January 2007.
Gabriella: What have National Grid done since he became CEO?
Gina: They’ve been planning for the future! National Grid collaborated with a company in the Netherlands to install an interconnection between the two countries, allowing an exchange of electricity.
Gabriella: Ah, I heard that there are plans to install a Europe-wide electrical super grid. This already existing connection between the UK and the Netherlands would be an important part of that.
Gina: Yes, it would be a very important part.
Gabriella: How about the money side of things?
Gina: The net income may disappoint you slightly after the billions we’ve been talking about previously as it is only a measly £2.296 billion.
Gabriella: (laughter) Only? That’s still a lot of money but yes, it’s low compared to the billions of Rolls-Royce and GSK.
Gina: National Grid’s market capitalisation as of August 2013 is £28.7 billion. Imagine being CEO of a company worth that much money.
Gabriella: I don’t think I can imagine it.
Gina: Hmm… me neither!
Gabriella: Well, that’s all for this lesson.


Gina: See you next time!
Gabriella: Bye!