A year for corporate titans who could lose their shirt and still make a packet | Hut Group

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The Pirelli 2021 Business Calendar

Each year, our awards celebrate the physical prowess of the finance world’s most alluring tycoons – who get their very own entry on our prestigious topless calendar.

You know the sort of thing: a bare-chested Sir Philip Green as the January boy; Simon Cowell stark naked from three inches above his navel as Mr February – all brought to you by the generous sponsorship of spare-tyre maker Pirelli.

However, this year the calendar’s fans get an extra special treat, with gym-bunny new entrant Matt Moulding, the billionaire founder of newly floated The Hut Group. Moulding became a business star in 2020, prompting (almost) every media outlet to publish pictures of him taken at pool and yacht parties.

A coy chap, Moulding dispatched an aide to claim the snaps of him sporting only his swimmers were taken on one of the rare occasions he went out, begging a rather obvious query about the day in question: why did he change his trunks so frequently?

The L’Oréal Shampoo Bottle for Being Worth It

Matalan’s John Hargreaves gets a gong for suing his own accountants.
Matalan’s John Hargreaves gets a gong for suing his own accountants. Photograph: PA

You may think Christmas is a tricky time to reward a group of folk who reckon they’re God’s gift. But, where most people see a mature market, an entrepreneur spies an opportunity to disrupt.

As ever, the list of tycoons believing normal rules don’t apply to them is too long to detail without a commemorative supplement, but mentions must go to: the partners at BDO, the accounting firm that paid its 264 partners an average of £518,000 each, forcing it into repaying £4.1m in furlough money; billionaire Mike Ashley, who made a public apology after a spat with the government about trying to keep his Sports Direct chain open, as other non-essential businesses were ordered to close; Sir Richard Branson’s attempt to get the taxpayer to bail out his airline, Virgin Atlantic; and bankers everywhere, who are preparing to pay each other millions in the new year in order to prevent themselves from defecting to an unseemly rival.

Yet there was a standout entry. John Hargreaves, the multimillionaire founder of Matalan, sued his accountants in May for allegedly giving him ineffective tax avoidance advice – just weeks after his retail empire received tens of millions of pounds of, er, taxpayer support during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Will Bailey Earmuffs for Blissful Ignorance

Light-touch regulator: Boohoo’s Mahmud Kamani.
Light-touch regulator: Boohoo’s Mahmud Kamani. Photograph: Jerritt Clark/Getty Images

In the final season of US political drama The West Wing, White House press secretary Will Bailey is told by chief of staff CJ Cregg that the president’s son-in-law might be sleeping with the nanny. Bailey is furious he’s received the information at all, telling Cregg: “I do my best work when I am the least informed person in the room.”

It is in that spirit that the earmuffs are awarded each year, for bosses who oversee a business structure that shields them from hearing of their company’s poor behaviour.

There could only be one winner in 2020 – and that is Mahmud Kamani, the co-founder of fashion group Boohoo. An independent report into allegations of minimum-wage breaches and life-threatening fire risks by Alison Levitt QC found the claims to be “substantially true”, and that Kamani told Levitt: “He knows how to sell clothes and leaves it to others to deal with the other aspects of running the company.”

The Richard Kiel Steel Denture Set for Image Makeovers

Pfizer: giving everyone a shot in the arm, hopefully.
Pfizer: giving everyone a shot in the arm, hopefully. Photograph: Michael Holahan/AP

Named after the 7ft-plus actor who played James Bond’s nemesis-turned-helper, Jaws, as the pair saved humanity in the 1979 film Moonraker, this set of false teeth is presented to finance’s most notable villain-turned-hero.

The judges highly commended Rishi Sunak, who in January was a largely anonymous Boris Johnson lackey with a fancy wardrobe and CV that included a stint at investment bank Goldman Sachs, a spell as a corporate raider and a billionaire father-in-law. Yet he became the most popular chancellor of the exchequer since Labour’s Denis Healey in the 1970s.

That said, the judges felt that Sunak’s image was flattered slightly by comparisons with his boss, so the gong for comeback of the year went instead to an entire industry. Pharmaceuticals firms went from being seen as money-grabbing vultures to our best hope of saving humanity (or, at least, the pub trade).

The Nobel Memorial Prize Nomination for Reinventing Economic Theory

Bending the laws of economics: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Bending the laws of economics: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

Conventional economic theory suggests that one of the most effective ways of bringing down prices is competition. Every new entrepreneur says they agree with that, but they tend to change their minds once their own company starts to dominate. Then maintaining their huge scale becomes the best way in which to serve customers.

Debunking accepted academic theories is a decent way to win a Nobel prize, so this year’s nomination goes to Big Tech (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google) whose lawyers are furiously resisting a series of mooted antitrust probes.



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