The CEO Magazine’s 12th annual Executive of the Year Awards took place at The Star Sydney on Thursday, 16 November, spotlighting a new crop of visionaries, high achievers and tireless leaders in Australia’s business world. Evaluated across seven categories of excellence and representing multiple industries and disciplines, this year’s winners are all highly accomplished leaders and serve as an inspiration to us all.
The caliber of all finalists was extremely high, making the judging no easy task for our seven esteemed judges. This year, our judging panel comprised Chris Dutton, Founder, The CEO Magazine; Anna Dutton, Co-Founder and Executive Director, The CEO Magazine; John Karagounis, Executive Chair, The CEO Circle; Ronni Kahn, CEO and Founder, Oz Harvest; Andrew Hume, CEO, Converge International; Scott Power, CEO, BMD; and Tristan Sternson, NCS NEXT Global Co-Lead, ARQ Group CEO & NCS Senior Partner.
Of course, the Executive of the Year Awards would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors: Acumen Accounting Group, Air Canada, Scenic Eclipse, Shaw and Partners Financial Services, A.H. Beard, YPO, McLaren, Hejaz Financial Services and Peter Berry Consultancy.
CEO OF THE YEAR – $100M+ – WINNER
CEO, Winning Group
His family’s store first opened in Redfern in 1906, and in 2005, at the age of just 21, Winning founded Appliances Online with a laptop, rented truck and a mobile phone. Today, he leads four separate business entities and employs a workforce of about 700 across Australia as head of Winning Group. His mission: to provide the best shopping experience in the world.
CEO OF THE YEAR – $100M+ – RUNNER-UP
CEO, Publicis Groupe Australia & New Zealand
Rebelo brings 25 years of international leadership experience to his role at one of the largest communications companies in the world. Employing close to 2,000 people, Publicis Groupe owns industry-leading creative, media and digital brands. Recent acquisitions have solidified their point of difference, with Publicis Groupe the only holding company in the region that can deliver end-to-end marketing and digital business transformation solutions.
CEO OF THE YEAR – $100M+ – HIGHLY COMMENDED
CEO, Endeavour Energy
Chalkley joined Endeavour Energy in 2020, bringing a wealth of experience from the financial, international and operational sectors. His customer-centric approach guides the company to deliver safe and reliable electricity services to millions of Australians. This year, he became the Chair of Energy Charter CEO Council, where he’ll work with like-minded Australian energy organizations responding to the cost-of-living pressures experienced across the continent.
CEO OF THE YEAR – $20M-$100M – WINNER
CEO, Initiative Australia
It’s rare to find a leader as committed to the personal and professional growth of their team as they are to commercial growth. Fein’s people-first leadership has driven her to introduce an award-winning bill of rights for her staff. Whether helping employees to grow their careers, initiating leadership opportunities or introducing automation, Fein has demonstrated herself to be a true advocate for industry progression.
CEO OF THE YEAR – $20M-$100M – RUNNER-UP
Nair has more than 26 years of experience in senior executive positions for Fortune 500 technology companies in Asia and Australia. After acquiring SMARTECH with a United States-based partner, he led growth and turnaround, transforming the company from a loss-making enterprise to one with 988 percent earnings growth in 2022.
CEO OF THE YEAR – $20M-$100M – HIGHLY COMMENDED
Director, Collar Group
Founded in 2021, Collar Group is the fastest-growing recruitment agency in Australia. Staff in the 12 offices across Australia boast a combined 400 years of experience. Their goal: to change the way the recruitment industry works, while fostering a supportive and rewarding career path for everyone in the company.
MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR – WINNER
Managing Director, PARC Engineering
Debattista’s future-focused attitude has allowed him to see opportunity wherever he’s looked – and pushed him to take great leaps into the unknown. One of those leaps led to the founding of PARC Engineering, now in its fourth year of business and boasting a team that has grown exponentially in size, scope and ambition.
MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR – RUNNER-UP
CEO and Managing Director, EIRE Constructions
Welcomed into both the role and the company in 2022, Rahmin brought a wealth of knowledge and extensive experience in the energy, resource and infrastructure sectors. During his time with the company, his role was instrumental as the company navigated its next phase and charts the growth and future of the business.
MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR – HIGHLY COMMENDED
CEO and Managing Director, Cleaning Melbourne
Motivated by the work experiences of his parents when they arrived in Australia, Gagovski started Cleaning Melbourne more than 15 years ago. Today, with hundreds of employees and a solid reputation as an industry leader in the southern city, forging respectful relationships with both clients and staff remains at the forefront of the company’s mission.
NOT-FOR-PROFIT EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR – WINNER
CEO and Executive Director, Starlight Children’s Foundation Australia
In 2003, at the outset of Baxter’s tenure at the children’s charity, the organization was coordinating 120,000 positive experiences for seriously ill children and their families. Today, that number has ballooned to 1,303,775. In addition to this staggering growth, she’s dedicated herself to catalyzing change by incorporating the digital landscape into the experiences and actively reducing the Foundation’s environmental footprint.
NOT-FOR-PROFIT EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR – RUNNER-UP
After making a promise to his mother, who passed away from cancer in 2016, Kawaguchi shifted careers to devote himself to helping Australians affected by brain cancer to access revolutionary clinical trials and innovative therapeutics. Under his leadership, the Foundation launched the world’s first brain cancer-dedicated clinical acceleration program and committed to the GBM Agile clinical trial for Australian patients.
NOT-FOR-PROFIT EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR – HIGHLY COMMENDED
While directing the charity arm of the Sony Group, Ryan works to bridge the gap that often exists between business and philanthropy. A background in criminal justice for the United Nations informs her work to improve the lives of young Australians with cancer, disabilities or experiencing homelessness.
YOUNG EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR – WINNER
Head of Environmental, Social and Governance, MoneyMe Financial Group
Just one year into his role as Head of Environmental, Social and Governance, Graham has worked to address critical challenges – from carbon offsetting and modern slavery to the gender pay gap and sustainability – all while steering the company towards greater responsibility on multiple fronts. A spirit of humility and a perpetually open mind guide his quest to bring awareness and social responsibility to the boardroom.
YOUNG EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR – RUNNER-UP
Executive Director, Whitehouse Institute of Design Australia
Catering to creatives, Whitehouse Institute of Design offers a two-year accelerated bachelor’s degree program that prepares students for a future in the creative industry. Now in his eighth year as Executive Director, Clements’ strong vision for higher education combined with a strong record of business growth can only lead to further success.
YOUNG EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR – HIGHLY COMMENDED
Director and Founder, Cullen Jewellery
The fastest-growing jewelry brand in Australia started out with a bit of a shock. Upon discovering the exorbitant prices and questionable origins of mined diamonds while on the hunt for an engagement ring, Cullen founded his company, which now offers the option of lab-grown, ethical diamonds to clients looking for information and transparency.
STARTUP EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR – WINNER
CEO and Founder, Evacovation
With an extensive background in security and risk, serial entrepreneur Khan founded the company with the goal of transforming the global security and emergency solutions industry. In 2021, Evacovation created the first-ever hybrid app with a real-time information feed that facilitates seamless connectivity and information sharing during an emergency, revolutionizing international best practices and procedures.
STARTUP EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR – RUNNER-UP
CEO and Founder, TaxLeopard
A former accountant, Kaplan poured her expertise into developing a company that uses AI and automation to make the process of preparing taxes for the self-employed not only as easy as possible – but also as time-friendly and affordable as possible. What was once a stressful, labor-intensive process is now transformed.
STARTUP EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR – HIGHLY COMMENDED
Director, Sunstate Conveyancing
Petroff’s interest in the ins and outs of real estate began in her teens. Today, with many years of experience behind her, her conveyancing company has become one of the most trusted names in the industry, priding itself on customer satisfaction and ensuring informative, seamless and transparent experiences for her clients.
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – WINNER
Founder and CEO, Honey Insurance
Over the span of two decades, Joffe founded three successful tech companies, each heralding transformative change within its domain – be that parking, recruiting or home insurance. Honey Insurance is currently poised to disrupt the home insurance sector using cutting-edge technology and data analytics, driven by Joffe’s extensive experience in, and knowledge of business strategy, finance and global markets.
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – RUNNER-UP
Managing Director and Founder, Matchboard
Following her entrepreneurial dreams, Melamed founded Matchboard to simplify the way companies find new suppliers, and suppliers find new clients. With more than 25 years’ experience in sales, service and outsourcing, she’s helped several thousand companies find solutions for their customer’s needs, earned the title ‘The Matchmaker’ in local media and expanded into the United Kingdom.
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – HIGHLY COMMENDED
Founder and CEO, The LittleOak Company
Fueled by her own struggles as well as a desire to help parents everywhere, Pascoe started her company making nutritional products for infants and children. In 2016, she poured her life’s savings into her fledgling business. Today, the company is the fastest-growing formula product in Western Australia with several warehouses worldwide and an international cult following.
Founder and Managing Director, Melodie Music
With many years of music experience, the founder and director of the independent music licensing company now represents an exclusive catalog of emotive, impactful tunes for content, created by award-winning Australian and international artists. Under Buist’s leadership and vision, the company’s tracks can be heard on a long list of Australian programs.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – WINNER
Executive Director, Children’s Cancer Institute
With a career dedicated to pediatric oncology, the Australian scientist’s contributions to medical research have reshaped our understanding and treatment of childhood cancer. Both in and beyond the lab, her work has resonated on a global scale, yielding innovative therapies and treatments, elevating awareness, securing vital funds and, ultimately, offering young cancer patients a brighter future.