Five killer executive promotions that boosted businesses

26 May 2015 -


As Apple designer Jony Ive takes on a new role at the firm, we look at other jumps up the career ladder that spurred corporate successes

Jermaine Haughton

Visionary Apple designer Sir Jonathan “Jony” Ive has been promoted to a newly created role at the organisation, following the impact he has made as the driving force behind the tech giant’s signature style. Initially revealed in a Telegraph profile by Apple superfan Stephen Fry, Ive’s career boost honours the vital role he has played in crafting the firm’s iPod, iPhone, iPad and smartwatch lines, which has led him to amass some 5,000 design and utility patents.

In his new role of chief design officer, Ive will take on an expanded remit encompassing the design of Apple’s retail stores, a new California campus for the use of 12,000 employees and even the style of the office furniture that will be used there. After more than 20 years at Apple, Ive’s new role shows the firm’s willingness to promote from within its management structure, despite a series of recent outside hires, and support the personal development plans of key staff.

As a landmark 2007 study by Harvard professor Joseph L Bower showed, well-groomed insiders routinely outperform outside hires – so here are a few more examples of how shrewd talent spotting paid dividends…

1. What are the odds?

Much like Sir Jony, Andy McCue was one of the lesser-known masterminds who aided the rapid growth of Irish betting brand Paddy Power. Under the decade-long leadership of chief executive Patrick Kennedy, Paddy Power’s share price almost quadrupled, and the firm grew from being a small, Dublin-based outfit to posing a genuine rivalry to traditional betting chains William Hill and Ladbrokes. Kennedy’s successor McCue, who took over early this year, has been a similarly pivotal figure. In his previous role as the company’s head of UK and Ireland retail operations, he oversaw the revamp and restructuring of its stores from perennial loss-makers into generating the highest profitability per shop than any other gambling brand in the industry. McCue now has his sights set on creating “clear blue water” between his firm and its competitors.

2. Comic book hero

Stan Lee’s promotion at age 19 to the post of interim editor at Timely Comics was his first step up the ladder to a web-slinging career that would make him pretty much synonymous with the company, which later re-launched as Marvel. Prior to that initial boost, Lee had been tasked with chores such as refilling artists’ inkwells and going out to get their lunch, but his occasional copywriting gigs gave his bosses pause for thought. Alongside colleague Jack Kirkby, Lee developed the hugely popular Fantastic Four in the 1950s, followed by a series of further, iconic titles such as Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men and The Avengers. Credited for spurring the development of a fanatical comic book community, Lee’s characters and storylines now generate hundreds of millions of dollars from blockbuster Hollywood movies.

3. Reshaping style

In partnership with former chief executive Domenico De Sole, Tom Ford reinvented the Gucci fashion brand from an old and antiquated label to slick and sexy – and one of the fashion world's most dynamic design houses during the 1990s and 2000s. Initially hired as designer and then in 1994 promoted to creative director, Ford turned Gucci away from snaffle-bit loafers and striped canvas bags to flashy trousers and slim-cut shirts. Indeed, Ford’s impact has been industry wide, opening the fashion world up to the general public rather than just a close-knit coterie of fashion editors and socialites. The trend of Oscar-nommed actresses revealing the designer of the dress they’re wearing on the red carpet is often credited as being inspired by… Tom Ford.

4. Sports heir

Arguably surpassing the achievements of his father Barry, Eddie Hearn has successfully brought boxing back to the mainstream of sport as group managing director of Matchroom Sport. When he took on the role some three years ago, British boxing was arguably in its darkest period since the 1970s, with terrestrial and satellite broadcasters refusing to show fights after getting burnt on a series of expensive, high-profile flops. The successful marketing of a wave of new, elegant stars such as Olympic Gold medallist Anthony Joshua, and consistently well-received events such as the Carl Froch and George Groves pay-per-view, have inspired broadcasters to re-invest in the sport, with Sky Sports recently signing a six-year contract to televise 120 boxing bouts per year.

5. Rock-star boss

Sharon Osbourne took her own approach to talent spotting by promoting herself from rock manager’s daughter to bona fide rock manager in the late 1970s. Dispatched on a debt-collecting errand to Ozzy Osbourne’s LA bolt hole by her father Don Arden – the fearsome manager who had orchestrated the singer’s firing from Black Sabbath – Sharon instead threw in her lot with the errant showman as career guide and romantic partner. As well as steering her husband through 11 solo albums and numerous tours, Osborne has masterminded the rocker’s mainstream acceptance by producing the family’s reality show The Osbornes, launched the Ozzfest music festival and rehabilitated the Black Sabbath band. As boss and sole employee of Sharon Osbourne Management, she has also tended to the affairs of The Smashing Pumpkins and Motörhead, while carving out a path as a judge on The X Factor.

CMI’s latest report Mapping Management Excellence stressed that bosses have a responsibility for inspiring and developing the next generation of managers, both internally and externally. Indeed, more than four in five of Chartered Managers surveyed in the report (84%) said that Chartered status enables them to act as a role models for management and leadership within their organisations.

Download the full CMI report.

Image credits:

Jony Ive (centre) courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

Sharon Osbourne (left) courtesy of EdwinAC, Stan Lee (right) courtesy of Jaguar PS, both from Shutterstock.

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