Who will be the 2022 Business Person of the Year?

ThinkBusiness profiles the 12 leading business people nominated for the 2022 Irish Times Business Person of the Year, in association with Bank of Ireland.

On 2 February next in the Round Room of the Mansion House in Dublin, the accolade Business Person of the Year will be bestowed upon the leadership of an Irish-based organisation for the vision, determination and decision-making that led their business to success in these challenging times.

Now in their fifth year, the awards’ candidates are selected from the winners of the Business Person of the Month in The Irish Times, in association with Bank of Ireland. (see below).

“These awards always showcase the best that Irish business has to offer”

Last year’s Business Person of the Year was CPL founder Anne Heraty, the first woman CEO of an Irish publicly-quoted company, who successfully sold recruitment business CPL Resources to Japanese group Outsourcing for €318m. The prestigious Business Person of the Year prize has previously been awarded to Róisín Hennerty of Ornua Foods (2020), Patrick and John Collison of Stripe (2019) and Glanbia’s Siobhán Talbot (2018).

Woman in red dress receiving an award.

Ciaran Hancock, business editor, The Irish Times; CPL Resources co-founder Anne Heraty; and Bank of Ireland chief of staff Oliver Wall. Photo: Conor McCabe

In addition to the Business Person of the Year Award, eight companies have been shortlisted for two key awards for the annual Irish Times Business Awards. In Deal of the Year, transactions involving CRH, Hibernia Reit, Horizon Therapeutics and Global Shares have been shortlisted. For Local Enterprise of the Year, tech company Provizio, spirits maker Teeling Whiskey, AI group HoloToyz, and ATA have been shortlisted.

“Bank of Ireland is delighted once again to sponsor the Irish Times Business Person of the Year,” said Nikki Canavan, senior director of Corporate Banking at Bank of Ireland.

“To have all the finalists now in place provides the chance to reflect on the outstanding Irish businesses that went from strength to strength in 2022, and to highlight the wonderful leadership provided by those at their helm. These awards always showcase the best that Irish business has to offer, and as a member of the judging panel I look forward to the challenges that the judging process is sure to present, and of course to another great event.”

Dómhnal Slattery, CEO, Avolon

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Avolon CEO Dómhnal Slattery was named Business Person of the Month for January 2022 for an outstanding three months towards the end of 2021 that saw the Dublin-headquartered aviation business complete 95 deals.

These deals included leasing new aircraft, follow-on leases and extensions.

Slattery said vaccines and an easing of Covid-19 curbs globally had driven a rebound in flying last year following a difficult period for the company and the industry in the wake of pandemic lockdown restrictions being introduced in the first quarter of 2020.

Gavin Slark, CEO, Grafton Group

In February 2022 Gavin Slark was bestowed the title Business Person of the Month for the achievement of seeing building supplier Grafton report a 68% jump in operating profits for 2021.

The result was driven by record contributions from its Woodie’s DIY retail unit in Ireland as well as its Selco builders supplies business in the UK.

Slark, who has led the group for 11 years, has steered it comfortably through the tumult of the Covid pandemic, helped in part by the classifying of Woodie’s as essential retail which allowed it to remain open during lockdowns.

Stephen Garvey, CEO and co-founder, Glenveigh Properties

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Glenveigh Properties chief Stephen Garvey was chosen as Business Person of the Month for March 2022 for the success of announcing a doubling in annual revenues and a return to profit for the house builder.

In March the house builder posted a pre-tax profit of €45.7m for 2021. This marked a major turnaround on the previous year when the business recorded a loss of €15.7m.

Glenveagh’s revenues more than doubled in 2021 to €476.8m. The company built 1,150 new homes in the 12-month period, a 47% increase on 2020, despite a Government-imposed 13-week lockdown on construction due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Barry Connolly co-founder Fulfil Nutrition

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April 2022’s Business Person of the Month was Barry Connolly, co-founder of Fulfil Nutrition which was sold to Ferrero for a cool €160m.

Connolly spotted a gap in the Irish market in 2016 for a high-protein “impulse purchase” bar that was aimed at the broader market and not just gym goers. He pushed for an aggressive expansion into the UK market.

The brand was developed in-house at Connolly’s Richmond Marketing Group before being spun into a separate business that at the time of the acquisition by Ferrero was selling 1m cases a year in Ireland and the UK.

Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe, Element Pictures

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Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe from Element Pictures were selected for the Business Person of the Month accolade for May 2022 for their success in inking a deal to sell a majority stake in their Dublin film and TV production company Element Pictures to UK production giant Fremantle.

Under Guiney and Lowe’s leadership Element Pictures grew organically over the past decade and was involved in such films as The Favourite, starring Oliva Coleman, for which she scooped Best Actress at the 91st Academy Awards.

Fergal Leamy, CEO, Glen Dimplex

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In June 2022 the CEO of Glen Dimplex Fergal Leamey was chosen to be Business Person of the Month for selling off its Morphy Richards brand to Chinese industrial giant Guangdong Xinbao Electrical Appliance Holdings for a deal believed to be worth between €175m and €200m.

At the time Leamy said the deal represented a milestone in value creation for the business that was acquired by Glen Dimplex founder Martin Naughton in the mid-1980s.

Geoff Martha, CEO and chair, Medtronic

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The Business Person of the Month for July 202 was Geoff Martha, CEO and chair of Medtronic for his role in bringing 200 new research and development jobs to Galway.

The new jobs came as part of a €29.9m investment in Medtronic’s Galway business to create a global centre of excellence.

Medtronic last year marked 40 years in Ireland where it employs 4,000 people. The 200 jobs will be in new product development and global laboratory services, working on the development of products and services in the areas of coronary care, heart valve and peripheral vascular disease, heart arrhythmia and pacing, hypertension and spinal injury.

Mary Quaney, CEO, Mainstream Renewable Energy

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The CEO of Mainstream Renewable Energy Mary Quaney was named Business Person of the Month for August for her success in leading the company’s return to the Irish market and its bid to buy a large Scottish wind farm project.

Founded in Ireland 14 years ago, Mainstream is a significant player in the global renewables sector and plans to develop three wind farms of the east, southeast and west coasts of Ireland.

Under Quaney, Mainstream is also being merged with sister group Aker Offshore Wind, increasing its industrial heft. Aker has said from the outset that its longer-term plan is to float Mainstream publicly over the next few years.

Nodjame Fouad, CEO and chair, Irish Distillers

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For September 2022 the chair and CEO of Irish Distillers Nodjame Fouad was named the Business Person of the Month after the business revealed plans to invest €250m in a new distillery in Midleton, Co Cork.

Prior to revealing its plans for a new distillery on a 55-acre site, the global parent group Pernod Ricard revealed that a record 10.4m cases of Jameson Irish whiskey were sold in the year ending 30 June, up 22% on the previous year.

Once fully operational in 2025, the new distillery will support some 100 jobs in the region and will produce pot still and grain whiskey.

Sean Coyle, CEO, Origin Enterprises

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October’s Business Person of the Month was Sean Coyle, CEO of agri-services group Origin Enterprises. The business acquired UK ecology consultancy and contractor Keystone Environmental after previously reporting a strong rise in full-year revenues due to soaring commodity prices.

Origin reported a surge in group revenues to €2.3bn for the year to the end of July. Its operating profit rose by 96 per cent to €119.7m while its margins increased to 5.1%, up from 3.7% previously.

Michael O’Leary, CEO, Ryanair

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Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary was November 2022’s Business Person of the Month after the airliner reported that a record 95.1m people travelled in the first half of its financial year as holidaymakers return to flying after the pandemic.

Ryanair said it expects to fly 168m passengers in the 12 months to the end of March, up from its previous prediction of 166.5m.

Dermot Crowley, CEO, Dalata

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The CEO of Ireland’s biggest hotel group Dalata was selected Business Person of the Month for December after the business said its revenue would exceed €500m for 2022, the first time it has hit that milestone.

Crowley last year led the hotel group as it rebounded strongly from almost two years of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. In mid-December the company said it was trading ahead of expectations amid a strong recovery and continued expansion of the business.

Main image at top: Ciarán Hancock, Business Editor of The Irish Times, with Nikki Canavan, senior director of Corporate Banking at Bank of Ireland

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.