ASX100 CEOs: Their path to the corner office

ASX100 CEOs: Their path to the corner office

24 September 2012 Myriam Robin

Want to be a CEO? Being an executive is a crucial first step, but not all leadership roles are likely to lead to the corner office. LeadingCompany analysed the backgrounds of the ASX100 CEOs, and discovered most were promoted after delivering results in their own little fiefdom. The rest of them were chief operating officers and chief financial officers, leaving other C-suite positions out in the cold. Australia’s top boards are opting for leaders who’ve either already demonstrated leadership success, or who bring operational mastery to the chief role.Almost half (40) of ASX100 CEOs were promoted up after heading a division of a company, often an overseas subsidiary or specialised business segment. This allowed them the chance to demonstrate to company boards their leadership in their own principality where they were in charge, making them an attractive pick for CEO.

But operational expertise was also important: just under one in four (23) ASX100 CEOs held the chief operating officer role before being promoted.

COOs were closely rivalled by chief financial officers – 16 ASX100 CEOs held the CFO role just before they go the call-up. One CEO, Brian Benari, doubled his chances by serving as Challenger’s joint CFO/COO before becoming top dog.

Take out divisional heads, COOs and CFOs, and you’re left with slim pickings for the other members of the C-suite. Two names on our list, Julian Segal at Caltex and Nick Curtis at Lynas Corporation, served as heads of marketing just before the board pulled them up. Two more – Robert Velletri at Monadelphous and Geoff Plummer at OneSteel – were appointed first as directors before being given the top role. Marius Kloppers was BHP’s chief commercial officer before his promotion, while Atlas Iron’s Ken Brinsden was chief development officer.

No ASX100 leader held the role of chief information officer roles before their current CEO position. Also absent from the list were chief human resource officers, despite this role having recently broken into the C-suite. The four women on the list came from backgrounds not dissimilar to most of the men.

Nine CEOs held their positions by dint of having founded their company, or were related to the company’s founders.

The takeout from this is clear. If you want to be a CEO, push for your own fiefdom where you aren’t answering to anyone else on a day-to-day basis. Deliver there, and the world’s your oyster.

We were interested in the path to becoming a CEO, rather than how to become a CEO of an ASX100, so in cases where someone was a CEO at another company before being bought over to their current position (quite a common occurance), we counted their last held non-CEO position.

Founders, and those related either by marriage or lineage to company founders, are listed as such. American titles such as ‘president’ or ‘vice-president’ have been given Australian equivalents.

The biggest difficulty in doing this sort of thing is that companies rarely have the same names for the members of their executive suite. Whereas positions like COO and CFO are fairly common, and fairly uniform, when it comes to executive heads of divisions, the whole thing gets very complicated. We’ve included the full title of CEOs whose previous position wasn’t a conventional C-suite role.

We could tell where someone had responsibility for a particular function (such as finance, human resources or operations) on a company-wide basis and when they were in charge of only a particular segment of a business. We grouped divisional heads together.

And lastly, the highest-ranked executive at a few companies had the title of managing director. We counted them as CEOs.

Here’s the full list, for those in the CEO role as of Friday, September 21. If you spot any errors, or if you can help us track down the previous position of Gary Stafford at PanAust, let us know!


AGL Energy Michael Fraser GM – division Group General Manager of Energy, Sales and Marketing
Atlas Iron Ken Brinsden CDO
Asciano John Mullen COO Chief Operating Officer at TNT Limited
Amcor Ken MacKenzie MD – division Group Managing Director, Amcor Rentsch and Closures
AMP Craig Dunn MD – division Managind Director, AMP Financial Services
Ansell Magnus Nicolin MD – divisional President of Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific at Newell Rubbermaid
ANZ Mike Smith GM Group General Manager HSBC
APA Michael McCormack COO
ASX Elmer Funke Kupper MD – division Group Managing Director of Asia Pacific at ANZ
Aurora Oil and Gas Jonathan Kingsley Stewart Director
Alumina John Bevan MD – division Chief Executive Officer of Process Gas Solutions, BOC Group
Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Mike Hirst COO
BHP Marius Kloppers CCO
Boral Mike Kane MD – Division President Boral USA
Boart Longyear Craig Kipp COO
Bank of Queensland Stuart Grimshaw CFO Chief Financial Officer and Group Executive, Wealth Management
Beach Energy Reginald George Nelson Director Joined as a director of Beach Energy in 1992, became CEO in 1995.
Bluescope Steel Paul O’Malley CFO
Brambles Tom Gorman MD – division Group President of CHEP Europe, Middle East and Africa at Brambles
CBA Ian Narev GM – division Group Executive, Business and Private Banking
Coca-Cola Amatil Terry Davis MD – division Managing Director, Beringer Blass (wine division of Foster’s Group)
Colonial First State Property Trust Michael Venter CFO – division CFO of Commonwealth Bank Wealth Management Business Unit at Commonwealth Bank
Challenger Brian Benari Joint COO / CFO
Cochlear Chris Roberts COO (Vice-President) Executive Vice President of ResMEd
Commonwealth Property Office Fund Michael Venter CFO CFO of Commonwealth Bank Wealth Management Business Unit at Commonwealth Bank
Campbell Brothers Greg Kilmister GM – division General Manager, ALS Laboratory Services Group at Campbell Brothers
Computershare William Stuart Crosby COO
Centro Steven Sewell MD – division National Head of Property Management at QIC Property
CSL Brian McNamee GM – division General Manager, Faulding Product Divisions, F H Faulding & Co
Caltex Julian Segal CMO
Crown Rowen Craigie COO
David Jones Paul Zahra GM – division Group General Manager of Stores and Operations
Downer EDI Grant Fenn CFO
Duet Group David Bartholomew COO
Dexus Property Group Darren Steinberg MD – division Managing Director of Property, Colonial First State Global Asset Management
Echo Entertainment Larry Mullin COO
Fortescue Metals Nev Power COO
Fairfax Greg Hywood Director Newspaper Editor, then appointed independent non-executive director at Fairfax Media
Goodman Group Gregory Goodman Founder
Graincorp Alison Watkins MD – division Managing Director of Regional Banking, ANZ
GPT Michael Cameron CFO
Harvey Norman Katie Page Founder
Insurance Australia Group Mike Wilkins COO
Iluka Resources David Robb MD – division Managing Director, Wesfarmers Energy
Investa Scott MacDonald COO
Incitec Pivot James Fazzino CFO
JB Hi Fi Terry Smart COO
James Hardy Louis Gries COO
Leighton Holdings Hamish Tyrwhitt MD – divisional Managing Director, Leighton Asia Limited and Leighton Contractors (Asia)
Land Lease Steve McCann CFO
Lynas Corporation Nick Curtis CMO
Mirvac Nick Collishaw MD – division Executive Director, Investment
Monadelphous Robert Velletri Director Appointed to Monadelphous’ board in 1992
Macquarie Group Nickolas Moore MD – division Head, Investment Banking Group, Macquarie
Metcash Andrew Reitzer MD – division Group Operations Director, Russia and Isreal for Metcash
Myer Bernie Brookes MD – division Chief General Manager, Supermarket Buying and Marketing, Woolworths
NAB Cameron Clyne GM – division Executive General Manager of Group Development, NAB
Newcrest Mining Greg Robinson CFO
News Corp Rupert Murdoch Founder
Origin Energy Grant King MD – division Managing Director Energy, Boral. Became Origin CEO when Boral Energy split from Boral.
Orica Ian Smith ? Formerly CEO of Newcrest. Previously held unknown position at BHP
Oil Search Peter Botten MD – Division Head of Exploration role at Oil Search
OneSteel Geoff Plummer Director Held several divisional executive roles at OneSteel, then joined the board.
OZ Minerals Terry Burgess GM – division Head of Business Development, AngloBase, a division of Angle American.
Paladin Energy John Borshoff Founder
PanAust Gary Stafford ?
Perseus Mining Mark Galderwood MD – division Managing Director, West African Operations, Afminex
Primary Health Care Edmund Bateman COO
Qantas Alan Joyce GM – division Head of Jetstar, a division of Qantas
QBE John Neal GM – division Chief Executive Officer, Global Underwriting at QBE
QR National Lance Hockridge GM – division President of Industrial Markets, Bluescope Steel
Ramsey Health Care Chris Rex COO
Rio Tinto Tom Albanese GM
ResMed Peter Farrell Founder
Regis Resources Mark Clark CFO
SEEK Andrew Bassat Founder
Sims Metal Management Daniel Dienst MD – division Chief Executive Officer of Metal Management, Sims Metal Management
Stockland Matthew Quinn MD – division Managing Director, Stockland Trust Management Limited
Sonic Healthcare Dr Colin Goldschmidt Professional Worked as a histopathologist before appointment as CEO.
Spark Infrastructure Rick Francis CFO
SP AusNet Nino Ficca MD Managing director of SPI Powernet from 2003 to 2004, when he was appointed CEO.
Santos David Knox COO – division Executive Vice President Growth Businesses, Santos
Suncorp Patrick Snowball MD – division CEO Norwich Union Insurance, a division of Aviva
Seven West Don Volte COO (Vice-President) Executive Vice President of Atlantic Richfield
Sydney Airport Kerrie Mather Professional Before becoming CEO Sydney Airport’s owner, MAp, she was a corporate aviation advisor
TabCorp David Attenborough MD – division Managing Director, Wagering, TabCorp
Transurban Group Scott Charlton COO
Telstra David Thodey MD – division Chief Executive Officer, Telstra Wholesale
Toll Holdings Brian Kruger CFO
Tatts Group Dick McIlwain Founder
Treasury Wines David Dearie MD – division Managing Direcot, Australia and New Zealand Wine, Fosters Group
UGL Richard Leupen COO (President) As President, reported to CEO at Kaiser Engineers
Westpac Gail Kelly GM – division Head of Customer Service Division at CBA (was CEO of St George before the Westpac merger)
Westfield Steven Lowey Founder
Wesfarmers Richard Goyder CFO
Whitehaven Coal Tony Haggarty MD – division Managing Director Australia, Agricoal
Worley Parsons John Grill Founder
Woolworths Grant O’Brien COO
Woodside Peter Coleman COO (Vice-President) Vice-President, ExxonMobil
Westfield Retail Trust Domenic Panaccio CFO


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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