Crypto Crashes, Mone Masks and Golden Farewells: Observer 2022 Bargain Prices – Reuters

HHollywood has the Oscars, literature has the Booker Prize and sport has the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. But in the business world, there’s little chance of recognizing the accomplishments of its luminaries (beyond boring business awards or the occasional criminal trial). So, every year, the Observer’s business diary column sets out to right that wrong. Here are our awards for the industry titans of 2022.

The Matt Hancock Award for Public Service

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Britons expressed their gratitude to those who went the extra mile in their service to the public. A company linked to Tory colleague Michelle Mone is said to have gone even further: an extra 5,000 miles to China, to be precise, to find protective gear for the NHS.

Of course, Lady Mone’s rewards went a little beyond the weekly helping hand given to key workers. The documents brought back by the Guardian in November showed that she and her children had also received £29million of profits from the PPE company.

Mone has taken “leave of absence” from the House of Lords to “clear her name” in an as-yet-undetermined manner, so she is unlikely to attend the awards ceremony. But if she did, she would likely use her speech to thank her husband, Douglas Barrowman, who also appeared to play a key role in PPE Medpro, and their lawyers, who will surely be grateful there is a permanent record of their engaged work. on behalf of their clients.

The Bonnie and Clyde Award for Best Couple

Sam Bankman-Fried after his arrest in Nassau in December. Photograph: Dante Carrer/Reuters

The business world has had its fair share of star-crossed lovers, but few of those romances have ended in what prosecutors have called “one of the greatest financial frauds in United States history.”

Technically, Sam Bankman-Fried and Caroline Ellison reportedly weren’t romantically involved anymore by the time crypto exchange FTX crashed dramatically in November. They were certainly involved financially. Close ties between Bankman-Fried’s FTX and affiliated hedge fund Alameda Research, of which Ellison was chief executive, are now under intense scrutiny by prosecutors.

Bankman-Fried was taken away this month in handcuffs by Bahamian authorities. Ellison has agreed to plead guilty to seven offenses including wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering (maximum combined sentence: 110 years) and she is cooperating with investigators. For there never was a story of more misfortune, etc.

The Andy Warhol Prize for Politics

Kwasi Kwarteng: fast mover.
Kwasi Kwarteng: fast mover. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Forget 15 minutes of fame. During the fall, it emerged that the Conservative Party was offering anyone who wanted 15 minutes to manage the economy.

To be fair to Kwasi Kwarteng, he achieved little more than that: he served as Chancellor for 38 days (the shortest reign at the British Treasury in over a century for anyone who has not died in office).

Kwarteng managed to almost cause a financial crisis in a matter of weeks, so it’s a deserved winner. But there was another big challenge coming from literally the same office: Nadhim Zahawi. He made an impressive offer for a two-day chancellorship, accepting the job and then telling the man who hired him, Boris Johnson, to quit the next day. However, Johnson was sent off before he could sack Zahawi, who managed to hang on for 63 days.

The Presidents Club Memorial Award

Aviva chief Amanda White: on receiving some inappropriate remarks.
Aviva chief Amanda White: on receiving some inappropriate remarks. Photography: PA

Sexism is still a major problem in the UK business world – but it can sometimes be difficult to get a sense of its prevalence. So congratulations to the individual shareholders at Aviva’s annual meeting for showing the world that misogyny is alive and kicking as bad as ever. An investor, apparently a member of the Richard Keys School of Women’s Psychology, told the meeting that chief executive Amanda Blanc should improve returns by, uh, “wearing pants.”

Highly Recommended: Don’t blame it all on individual investor crackpots. There are only nine female CEOs in the FTSE 100, so boards still haven’t gotten the memo that we’ll soon be in 2023.

Monopoly golden board

This gong goes to the most impressive rent extraction of the year. As always, extra points are offered if the products are essential to human life, so there was only one winner in 2022: the entire energy industry.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has driven prices everywhere to insane levels. Big oil, renewables and nuclear have all done what Vladimir Putin might describe as “a killer killer”.

The sector’s oil and gas bosses were amply rewarded for their good fortune, but one of the most notable was Linda Cook, chief executive of the North Sea’s largest operator, Harbor Energy. She landed a £4.6million ‘golden hello’ as part of her £6million salary package. Cook is an expert in the art form: in 2010, she received a “golden farewell” worth more than $30 million in severance and pensions as a consolation prize after missing out on the job the highest at Shell.

Highly praised: Hayden Wood, boss of Bulb Energy, who continued to collect a taxpayer-funded £250,000 salary for months after the firm collapsed at a cost to the government of £6.5billion. Good job if you can get it.

Freedom of Expression Award

Elon Musk, a regular fixture at Business Agenda's annual awards ceremony.
Elon Musk, a regular fixture at Business Agenda’s annual awards ceremony. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

We pay tribute to Elon Musk for his commitment to “free speech absolutism” that lasted about as long as it took him to lay off half of the company’s workers.

Musk has made a big deal of Twitter’s uneven moderation policies (some of them being justified). However, that didn’t stop him from imposing his own inconsistency, including suspending the Twitter accounts: of a private jet tracker that used public data; journalists who have published links to other sources for this data; rival social media companies; people who have posted links to other social media companies. The public square has become even more disorderly.

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Crypto Crashes, Mone Masks and Golden Farewells: Observer 2022 Bargain Prices – Reuters