And it wasn’t the only trophy he took home from the black-tie event in Melbourne on 15 November, Michael also won the first award of the evening – Media Executive of the Year.
“I’m quite surprised by it all. There were some great nominations tonight so I feel really humbled,” he said upon accepting the major award, CEO of the Year, sponsored by Maserati.
“You don’t do anything for awards naturally, and it’s lovely to be recognised by them, but I think if you focus on what you’re passionate about then the rest will follow.”
CEO awards like this give people an opportunity to be their best and to strive to improve, to learn and to constantly take themselves to a new level. I think that’s really important.
Michael said events such as The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards were an excellent opportunity to celebrate the wins among Australia’s corporate community.
“CEO awards like this give people an opportunity to be their best and to strive to improve, to learn and to constantly take themselves to a new level. I think that’s really important.
“Businesses are the backbone of our economy. We need strong leaders in the country at a political, corporate and community level.
“That’s the beauty of leadership – that you can really make a difference.”
The pinnacle CEO of the Year category was a close race this year, with only a few points separating the top three finalists. Jason Dooris, CEO Of Atomic 212°, received the runner-up award, while Barry Fitzgerald, CEO of Roy Hill, was highly commended. To see the full list of winners, click here.
The evolution of SBS
Since 2011, Michael has pioneered a new era for SBS by doubling commercial revenue, promoting a differentiated offering, and engaging diverse audiences across more platforms than ever before.
“SBS has evolved so much over the past few years and there are a lot of people who have worked hard to transform and evolve the business to be more relevant to Australia.
“We’re really proud of where SBS is sitting in the media landscape at the moment,” he told The CEO Magazine.
We’re doing amazing things; we’ve got SBS digital services, products, programs … we’re more relevant today to Australians than we have ever been.
By backing internal innovation programs, multimedia production, and experimental digital projects to deliver a more personalised user experience, Michael has cemented SBS’s digital future.
In fact, SBS On Demand is now Australia’s most distinctive streaming service, having achieved 100% growth and 2.5 million visitors per month.
“We’re doing amazing things; we’ve got SBS digital services, products, programs … we’re more relevant today to Australians than we have ever been.”
Since his appointment six years ago, Michael’s internal focus has been to invest in his employees and leadership team and to expand partnerships in support of educators.
And the results haven’t gone unnoticed.
An extensive employee consultation revealed that SBS staff are more engaged, confident in their leadership, and aligned in their shared purpose.
We’ve got an extremely happy workforce, which is important because we all want to be happy at work.
“We’ve got an extremely happy workforce, which is important because we all want to be happy at work,” Michael stated.
Above all, Michael and his team have invested heavily in creating content that celebrates diversity and resonates with a multicultural Australian audience.
Three wins in one day
In Michael’s CEO of the Year acceptance speech at the 2017 Executive of the Year Awards, he acknowledged Australia’s marriage equality ‘Yes’ vote, which was announced that morning, and thanked his partner of 14 years, Roland Hewlett, for his enduring support.
“Without him and the people who support me, I don’t think I could do what I do every day,” he said on stage in front of the 550 guests at the ceremony.
“This morning restored my faith in this country.”
This morning restored my faith in this country.
As the official broadcaster of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Michael and the SBS team were also thrilled with Australia’s qualifying win that evening. “In the morning I was biting my nails for marriage equality, in the afternoon I was biting my nails for the Awards and now with the World Cup – it’s been a very emotional day.”
He thanked SBS Chairman Dr Bülent Hass Dellal and Deputy Chairman George Savvides for their ongoing support.
“As a CEO, having a supportive board is incredibly important for us to be able to achieve what we do.
“As Gina [!rinehart!] said, our economy depends on good businesses.”
When asked how winning CEO of the Year might impact his leadership journey over the coming months, Michael said: “I look forward to finding out what the journey entails.”
Inspired by many
Michael revealed he draws inspiration from fellow leaders, including former SBS Chairman Joe Skrzynski and prominent Australian businesswoman Ann Sherry, Executive Chairman of Carnival Australia, who “continues to reinvent herself across multiple industries”.
Like Michael, Ann also had a successful evening at the 2017 Executive of the Year Awards. She won Hospitality and Tourism Executive of the Year, and was runner-up in the Chairperson of the Year category, second only to Gina Rinehart, Executive Chairman of Hancock Prospecting Group.
The Media Executive of the Year and CEO of the Year awards are the cherry on top of Michael’s stellar year with SBS. In June 2017, he was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List as a Member of the Order of Australia, ‘for significant service to the broadcast media and multicultural affairs as an executive, innovator and business leader’.
The CEO Magazine’s 2017 Executive of the Year Awards were held on 15 November at Palladium, Crown Melbourne.