Business & Finance Awards

Business Person of the Year: Overview of the prestigious award

By Business & Finance
04 July 2023
Photographed at the 2022 Business & Finance Awards in association with KPMG: Imelda Hurley, recipient of the Business Person of the Year Award presented by Seamus Hand, Managing Partner of KPMG Ireland (right) with Ian Hyland, Business & Finance.

Business Person of the Year is part of the renowned Business & Finance Awards recognition programme, in association with KPMG. It honours business people who have had a significant impact on Irish business.

The Business & Finance Awards

Business & Finance was launched in 1964 as Ireland’s premier business magazine. The Business & Finance Awards programme was established a decade later, in 1974, and has become Ireland’s longest-running and most coveted business awards programme. These prestigious awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of some of our most remarkable business leaders.

In association with KPMG Ireland, the Business Person of the Year Award recognises individuals who have demonstrated exceptional career achievements over the past year.

Business Person of the Year Award

The prize was first awarded in 1974 to Mr Tom Roche, founder of Roadstone and one of the leading entrepreneurs of his generation. Former Chairman of Smurfit Kappa Group Michael Smurfit was honoured with the award the following year.

Born in Lancashire in 1936, Dr Smurfit was educated at Clongowes Wood College and joined his father’s company Jefferson Smurfit & Sons in 1955. He was appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Jefferson Smurfit Group in 1977, a position he held until his retirement as CEO in November 2002. 

Dr TK Whitaker received the award in 1976. Dr Ken Whitaker, senator, civil servant and former Governor of the Central Bank, was one of Ireland’s most outstanding public servants, whose 1958 Economic Development report led to Ireland’s First Programme for Economic Expansion, which opened Ireland to both global trade and inward investment. His impact on Ireland has been immense and to honour this, the TK Whitaker Award for Outstanding Contribution to Public Life similarly honours Irish and international leaders and their contribution to public life.

Vice President EMEA GBG at Meta, and former Vodafone Ireland CEO, Anne O’Leary, was the recipient of the award in 2019. She saw her win as a victory for diversity and women in business:

“We need to ensure that everybody feels welcome and included and that their views and values are respected. This is how organisations will encourage more leaders to emerge in the future.”

In an interview with Business & Finance, O’Leary noted that a drive for diversity and inclusion is integral to her business approach, and advises business leaders to consider implementing policies to ensure inclusion of everyone: “We need to ensure that the culture, behaviours and environment we create in our organisations work to support everyone, no matter what gender, race or sexuality, in reaching their full potential.”

Mark Roden, founder of Ding, received the coveted prize at the 2021 ceremony. Founded in 2006, Ding is a global leader in international top-up and credit transfers, offering customers the ability to top-up online, on the Ding app, via partners through the Ding API and in over 600,000 retail stores across the globe. Ding serves millions of customers around the world.

Imelda Hurley, CEO, Coillte, and President of Ibec, won the award at the 2022 ceremony. “At Coillte, Imelda has led the launch of a strategic vision to help Ireland achieve its climate goals. She oversaw Coillte’s involvement in the community including nature rehabilitation projects and mental health intervention initiatives, creating employment and opportunities in rural Ireland,” the judges said.

In an interview with Business & Finance, Hurley remarked on the esteemed company she was now a part of as a recipient of the Business Person of the Year Award:

“I was extremely proud and honoured to receive the Businessperson of the Year award in 2022. These awards have been recognising business leaders in Ireland for over 40 years, so it is a great honour to be amongst so many inspirational leaders.”

“I accepted this award on behalf of the entire team at Coillte who I have the privilege to lead every day. I’m fortunate to work in an organisation and in a sector that can make such a positive contribution to Ireland in so many ways.”

For those striving to emulate Hurley’s success, the Coillte CEO and Ibec President offered some advice:

When I reflect on the things that helped me in my career, the key ingredients that really stand out include:

  1. Working internationally to broaden my experience
  2. The importance of having a clear organisational purpose and vision, and building on that, a strategy to deliver on that vision
  3. The importance of building a great team to deliver the articulated strategy
  4. Ensuring every colleague understands their role has a purpose and is important to the overall success of the organisation”

Previous winners:

Imelda Hurley (2022)

Mark Roden (2021)

Tommy Kelly (2020)

Anne O’Leary (2019)

Tony Smurfit (2018)

Paul Marchant (2017)

Dómhnal Slattery (2016)

Tommy Breen (2015)

Anne Heraty  (2014)

John Moloney (2013)

Dr Pearse Lyons (2012)

Aidan Heavey (2011)

Danuta Gray (2010)

Jim O’Hara (2009)

Gary McGann (2008)

Denis O’Brien (2007)

Maurice Pratt (2006)

Liam O’Mahony (2005)

Dermot Desmond (2004)

Willie Walsh (2003)

Sean Fitzpatrick (2002)

Philip Lynch (2001)

Fran Rooney (2000)

Don Godson (1999)

Kieran McGowan (1998)

Pat Molloy (1997)

Paddy Galvin (1996)

John Hume (1995)

Peter Sutherland (1994)

Stephen O’Connor (1993)

Craig McKinney (1992)

Neil McCann (1991)

Bernie Cahill (1990)

Ray McSharry (1989)

Michael Smurfit (1988)

Martin Naughton (1987)

Denis Brosnan (1986)

Tim Mahony (1985)

Paddy O’Keeffe (1984)

Tony Ryan (1983)

Perry Greer (1982)

Ken Rohan (1981)

Gerry Dempsey (1980)

Michael Killeen (1979)

Jim Culliton (1978)

Joe McGough (1977)

Dr TK Whitaker (1976)

Michael Smurfit (1975)

Tom Roche (1974)


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