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CNBC Names the Top European Business Leaders

Europe’s top business leaders have been named this evening at the CNBC European Business Leaders Awards 2009. The annual awards, presented by CNBC in partnership with the Financial Times, are based on nominations made by an independent group of CEO peers.

Bart Becht, CEO of Reckitt Benckiser, was honoured as Business Leader of the Year (sponsored by BT). Under Becht’s leadership, Reckitt Benckiser has produced healthy financial results and increased shareholder value. Becht was acknowledged for his sound management style and delivering on the company’s vision with integrity, accountability and good governance.

Business Leader of the Future was awarded to James Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation, who was recognised with having made significant impact with positive financial results, reinvigorating the company and moving aggressively into broadband. His energy and vision have proven to be a driving force in business.

Entrepreneur of the Year was won by Christina Domecq, CEO and co-founder of SpinVox. Judges were impressed with Domecq’s innovative approach to create a business model, powering a whole new world of communication – voice-to-content.

Other Awards announced this evening:

· Innovator of the Year (sponsored by HCL Axon) was won by Sir Terry Leahy, CEO of Tesco, who was chosen for his continuous ability to turn innovation into customer and shareholder value.

· Business Leader of the Year (Global/Local) was awarded to Denis Hennequin, President of McDonald’s Europe. Under Hennequin, revenue in Europe has surpassed that of the United States, with only one-fourth as many outlets.

· Outstanding Leadership in Sustainable Practiceswas won by Patrick Cescau, Chief Executive of Unilever Group. Judges recognised Cescau’s leadership in placing importance on social and environmental accountability.

· Philanthropist of the Year was awarded to Paul Barry-Walsh, Chief Executive of Fredericks Foundation, whose charitable work has triggered hundreds of start-ups with 69% of the businesses still trading.

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Nestlé, received theLifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to business and leadership of the Nestlé Group. Between 1997 and 2007, when Brabeck was CEO, he achieved an average organic growth of 5.9%, growing the company’s sales from 70 billion Swiss Francs to 108 billion. He also improved the EBIT by 370 basis points to 14%.

Mick Buckley, President and CEO, EMEA at CNBC said: “In the current economic climate, it’s never been more important to recognise and celebrate excellence in leadership. What makes these Awards so special, is that nominations are decided by CEO peers.”

Buckley continued: “CNBC’s business is to track and report the movements and achievements of today’s business leaders. Today’s winners continue to prove Europe’s strength in the global economy, even in these difficult economic times.”

The Awards scheme, now in its sixth year, asks CEOs of the FT Europe 500 to identify and recognise their peers who they believe have built and sustained entrepreneurship, developed best practices and created powerful businesses in the global economy. This year more than 200 CEOs were nominated (see notes to editors for a complete shortlist of nominations).

The 2009 panel of judges included EBLA 2008 winners: Aditya Mittal, Natalie Massenet, Dr Mike Lynch, Sergio Marchionne, Nani Becalli-Falco and Sir Lindsay-Owen Jones. The panel was chaired by Sir William Castell, Chairman of the Wellcome Trust, and was joined by Lionel Barber, Editor of the Financial Times, Professor Seán Meehan, Professor of Marketing and Change Management, IMD and Barbara Stelzner, VP of News and Programming EMEA at CNBC.

The Awards programme is presented by CNBC, in partnership with the Financial Times, and is sponsored by BT and HCL Axon. Media partners are CNBC European Business Magazine, FOCUS and TIME Magazine.

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