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Glamour and gratitude: 2016 Executive of the Year Awards

The Executive of the Year Awards has become an important date on the calendar for Australia’s business elite. For 2016, the prestigious event was back on home ground in Sydney, and proved itself to be every bit as glamorous and successful as the last.

Executive of the Year Awards

Twilight was slowly setting in as more than 500 well-dressed guests filed into the Grand Ballroom at the Four Points by Sheraton in Sydney’s Darling Harbour. The air was buzzing with anticipation, everyone excited to find out who would be crowned with the highly coveted title of CEO of the Year, as well as the winners of the other 23 award categories.

Attendees mingled and networked while sipping chilled Arras champagne and Chivas Regal aromatic cocktails. They admired the two luxurious Maserati vehicles parked in the venue, posed for stylish snaps at the social-media photo booth, and discussed how the night’s proceedings would play out.


Now in its fifth year, The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards is a true celebration of Australia’s leading business talents. More than 200 entries were received across the various award categories, with the six expert judges scrutinising every application closely, identifying the achievements of aspiring and established business executives before determining the worthiest of winners. Who would be victorious was about to unfold.

And so it began …

Executive Awards 2016
Executive of the Year Awards 2016

The 2016 Executive of the Year Awards kicked off with a performance by the eccentric ‘speed artist’ Brad Blaze.
Loud music bellowed as he got to work, whipping up several detailed paintings in a matter of minutes, with nothing more than a blackboard, a paintbrush, and some white paint. After his final skit — a hilarious tribute to the ‘King of Pop’, which involved guests being invited on stage to show off their best Michael Jackson moves, Eddie McGuire took to the stage for his
fifth consecutive year as master of ceremonies. A warm welcome to all guests, nominees, finalists, and soon-to-be-announced winners followed, and he expressed his delight in hosting an event that brings together the country’s brightest business minds, while celebrating their recent successes and achievements.

Proud founder and CEO of The CEO Magazine Chris Dutton echoed his comments before sharing a short anecdote. “We are here tonight to recognise the best assets a company can ever have — its staff,” he said. “These awards are underscoring the brilliant job that you have done. There really are no losers here tonight.

‘Speed artist’ Brad Blaze
‘Speed artist’ Brad Blaze

“I learned a fact about aeroplanes the other day. I was talking to a friend of mine — a pilot — who said that many of his passengers think planes are dangerous to fly in. They think it’s dangerous to be travelling in something that’s 35,000 feet up in the air. But this pilot friend of mine said to me that it’s actually a lot more dangerous for a plane to stay on the ground. He said planes are safer in the air — that’s where they’re meant to be. On the ground, they start to rust, malfunction, and wear much faster than they ever would if they were in the air.

“As I walked away, I thought that it makes total sense because planes were built to live in the sky. It’s pretty similar to us human beings — what’s the point in having a dream or ambition if you don’t do anything with it? It’s perhaps the saddest loss of all when you have one life — one career — and you live that life and career on the ground without ever taking off. Congratulations to everyone here this evening who realises that planes are safer in the air where they don’t rust.”

Next summoned to the stage was Naomi Simson, a guest judge for the 2016 awards. As the founder of RedBalloon and a celebrity on the Shark Tank television show, the businesswoman knows what it takes to be successful. “A wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone,” she shared — three bones that many of the finalists in the 2016 Executive of the Year Awards no doubt have in common.

Lucky door draw and selfie snap

Rod Douglas’ winning selfie

Guests who attended the 2016 Executive of the Year Awards were invited to enter their business cards into the lucky door prize. There were 11 up for grabs, all randomly drawn by Eddie McGuire after the main course was served. For the first time, there was also a selfie competition, with Rod Douglas of Mr Rental taking out the coveted prize worth $5,600: four days exploring Tasmania on foot, thanks to The Maria Island Walk.

The first lucky door prize, donated by Maserati Australia and New Zealand, went to Scott Whiteman of Riverina Oils & BioEnergy. He will spend a day cruising around in a sporty and luxurious Maserati, making his way to Bells at Killcare Boutique Hotel, Restaurant and Spa for an overnight stay.

Tourism New Zealand sponsored the second prize. Lucky winner Debbie Pethig of Perpetual will enjoy return flights with Air New Zealand to Auckland, sitting in Business Premier seats, and two nights at the 5-Star SkyGrand Hotel, thanks to SkyCity Auckland Convention Centre.

Andrea Joseph of Corporate Travel Management won an opportunity for her company to receive an impartial, independent and free assessment of its technology stack against its actual business and strategy needs for the future, thanks to The Architecture Practice.

Azure Group was kind enough to donate an incredible Quay Restaurant dining experience, which includes a degustation with matching wines worth $900. Laura Ruffles of Corporate Travel Management took home this prize.

Chris Dutts
Chris Dutton, CEO of <em>The CEO Magazine</em>

With compliments of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Michael Harvey of Australian Radio Network will be able to update and broaden his knowledge on governance issues, board practice, and the roles and responsibilities of directors after winning enrolment into a short business course of his choice, valued at $799.

Chivas Regal gave to Billy Chalk of Chalk Energy a bottle of 25-year-old whisky, a rare and exclusive blend worth $400.

Amanda Woodard of Mahlab will get the thrill of a lifetime after winning a half-day session at Drift School where she’ll learn how to drive like a professional in a modified car before jumping into the passenger side for some laps with a trained driver. This prize was donated by EOS Australia and worth $395.

Sunsuper sponsored the next prize, giving lucky winner Barry Pearton of Asia Today International a double VIP pass to a concert of his choice, with reserved seating and dinner, at the ‘A Day on the Green’ concert series.

Steve Schofield of Downer Group took home a gift hamper, courtesy of Zarraffa’s Coffee, which included a gift card, coffee beans, mugs, hats, flavoured sauces and Okapi capsules.

LeasePlan also provided a gift hamper, filled to the brim with items such as a handcrafted wooden cheese board, crystal glasses and a silver platter. This went to Jennifer Todd-Wilson of Xylem.

The final lucky door prize was thanks to Knight Frank, a champagne cooler which was won by Dr Aniss Chami of Vitex Pharmaceuticals.

Download the PDF to view all 2016 Executive of the Year Awards winners…


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