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43. Paul Walsh

Walsh, paul
Age 68
Occupation Executive Chairman, McLaren Group
Nationality British
Position Last Year 48

Paul Steven Walsh (born 15 May 1955) is an English businessman who is the executive chairman of the McLaren Group. He was the chief executive of Diageo, the world’s largest whisky company, for twelve years between 2000 and 2013.

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Walsh was criticised in the press for what was seen as his excessive remuneration but received admiration for his ability to build brands. He spent most of his career at Diageo and its precursor Grand Metropolitan. The most important thing he did was buy the Seagram drinks company, which gave Diageo brands like Captain Morgan rum and Crown Royal Canadian whisky.

Walsh’s tenure in charge of Diageo closely mirrored his behaviour as head of the Pillsbury food business: selling off non-essential assets such as Burger King and aggressively marketing a select number of “core” brands. He was disciplined regarding prices paid for the acquisition of assets. Towards the end of his Diageo career, he increased the company’s exposure to developing markets such as India and China.

In February 2014, Walsh became the non-executive chairman of Compass Group, the world’s largest catering company. His role as an advisor to Diageo ended in September 2014.

Philippe Naughton described Walsh in The Times as “tall, paunchy, balding and thickset…[with] a burly confidence that exudes from every pore…a bluff Mancunian whose blokeish humour masks a fiercely competitive nature”. Walsh claims to lead a “relatively modest” life dominated by work. At Diageo, he spent around half of his time in various foreign countries, totalling over 5 million air miles.

Walsh met Manchester-born Nicolette (Nikki) in London in 1978. They married in 1980 and have a son, Dean Paul Walsh. They separated in 2006.

In October 2012, it was reported that Walsh was engaged to marry his long-term girlfriend, Julie Lewis, a public relations executive, and they married in May 2013.

Walsh is one of the highest-paid businessmen in Britain, earning £11.2 million between June 2011 and June 2012 from his work at Diageo. He lives near Horsham in West Sussex. He holds a minority stake in a 2,400-acre (970 ha) game ranch in South Africa, where he enjoys big game hunting.

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