I'd be interested in members' comments on Crikey's awards for this year.

Crikey Honour Roll 2006: Business
1. Company of the Year

Innovation is CSL’s stock in trade. But this year's chronology of events maps a company that has found – or placed – itself in the right place at the right time. A week ago, the world's second-largest producer of blood plasma products lifted its profit guidance for the 2006/07 financial year approximately 10% above August's prediction thanks to reduced plasma supplies in the US. In July, the company bought out smaller fry Melbourne-based Zenyth Therapeutics. CSL was further boosted when its cervical cancer booster Gardasil gained TGA approval in June and later, after a bit of teeth-pulling, PBS approval ahead of a national vaccination campaign. Under the impressive guiding hand of CEO Brian McNamee, Crikey's CEO of the Year in 2005, CSL’s share price started this year around $40 and is currently trading at $65.30 -- a company in very good health.

Honourable mentions:

Zinifex, for having risen from the ashes, ridden the commodities boom better than anyone and seen its share price rise some 300% in a year as it exploited the cycle to reduce risk.

Macquarie Bank, whose extraordinary deal flow continued, putting paid to suggestions that the “Macquarie model” was under threat as it surfed the growing private equity boom.

David Jones, who watched as its competitor Myer was sold off, stuck to its knitting and saw its share price double over the year.

Rural Press, whose patient board and controlling Fairfax family shareholder waited for the top of the market to capitalise on their exemplary performance over the years and do a deal with the larger Fairfax that, if it isn’t topped, will give the Rural Fairfaxes effective control of the city Fairfaxes and also dramatically increase the Fairfax family coffers.

2005 winner: QBE Insurance.


2. CEO of the Year

Turn in your grave, Kerry. Less than a year after the death of his father, James Packer has not only dispelled any idea that he’s not up to the job of running Australia’s biggest media/entertainment conglomerate – he has already created the new idea that he will transform his father’s corporate legacy into something much, much bigger. When Kerry died James grieved, then he swiftly and confidently assumed control of the family empire. He transformed the PBL board, culling his father’s older retainers and replacing them with smart business operators like Geoff Dixon, Chris Corrigan and former UBS chairman Chris Mackay. He moved in on the Nine Network to cut costs. Then, in October, he completed one of the deals of his lifetime by selling PBL’s old media assets at the top of the market into a new private equity-funded entity that returned billions of dollars to PBL to spend on expanding its fast-growing international gaming business while retaining operating control of the media assets. When Kerry Packer died PBL’s share price was hovering around $16.50, today it is over $22. For all those reasons, James Douglas Packer -- whose official title is executive chairman but in reality runs the joint -- is Crikey’s CEO (and chairman) of the Year.

Honourable mentions:

Chip Goodyear, for successfully presiding over Australia’s biggest company in Australia’s biggest boom in history.

David Leckie, who runs PBL’s direct media competitor Seven Network, who has been the one to turn the heat on the Nine Network and, in the process, transform the economics of his own company.

Geoff Dixon, for selling Qantas and delivering shareholders a price they would almost certainly never have achieved if the company stayed public.

2005 winner: CSL's Brian McNamee.


3. Corporate Deal of the Year

Toll Holdings’ tenacious, contentious, audacious and tension-packed $4.6 billion takeover of Patrick Corporation takes the cake and the prize. Sure, Toll paid a big price for its major competitor, but CEO Paul Little and his advisors executed brilliantly and finally outsmarted arch-rivals Chris Corrigan and Peter Scanlan, then cajoled Graeme Samuel and the ACCC in order to proclaim a moral victory. After the deal came the mopping up and carving up, without a hint of industrial or other problems, and the bonus of seeing Virgin Blue soar and stay within the Toll fold. All of which led to a nice little pre-Christmas re-rating of its stock. With hindsight, this was textbook execution.

Honourable Mentions:

ABC Learning, which continued to buy up the world’s child care centres.

Sydney Futures Exchange, which sold itself to ASX for a fortune and then managed to get their bloke up to run the lot.

PBL, for selling its old media assets -- for a huge price at the top of the market -- into a new company funded by the CVC private equity group.

2005 winner: "Graeme Hart's food asset swapping has delivered him a clear profit of more than $1 billion thanks to the $2.1 billion float of 80% of Goodman Fielder, which Burns Philp bought for $2 billion in 2003."


4. Business Blunder of the Year

Having played fast and loose to put themselves in the box seat to score a windfall $50 million profit from the Beaconsfield gold mine Macquarie Bank and its fellow travellers seemingly pushed the operational envelope just a little too hard and watched the profits collapse on top of Todd Russell and Brant Webb. The embarrassing spotlight on these controversial dealings, which saw the bank buy more than $50 million in debt for just $300,000, sparked even the Millionaire Factory to walk away with nothing but a modest gain and a soiled reputation. Meanwhile, Todd and Brant got rich by selling their story to Channel Eddie and anyone else who’d listen.

2005 winner: Multiplex for its ongoing troubles with London's Wembley Stadium.


5. Business Quote of 2006

"What are we going to do about Jessica? When should we bone her? I reckon it should be next week." -- Nine Network CEO Eddie McGuire discusses the future of Today show presenter Jessica Rowe in an example of New Aussie Management Speak.

Crikey readers say:

"'What you're going to find is Matthew Slatter will become the most henpecked chief executive in Australia' UNiTAB boss Dick McIlwain's taunts to his Tabcorb counterpart before Slatter had made an unsuccessful bid for UNITAB." -- James Walker

2005 winner: "I'll keep that to myself, but I sure wouldn't recommend it to my mother" – Phil Burgess, Telstra's imported Group