Creative, tireless, and optimistic, these corporate visionaries have replaced Europe's no-growth mindset with a new-growth spirit
When Charles w. (Chip) Goodyear took over as BHP Billiton CEO two-and-a-half years ago, shareholders were running scared. The world's biggest mining company--a €23 billion marriage of convenience between Australia's former Broken Hill Proprietary and Britain's Billiton--had just gone through a nasty divorce. Goodyear's British predecessor quit after just six months, citing "irreconcilable differences" with Chairman Don R. Argus, a tough Australian. Profit and sales fell in 2002, and BHP's stock was mired at two-year lows.
Today, the American ex-banker is given credit, along with skyrocketing commodity prices, for a 78% jump in 2004 profits on a 47% rise in sales. Goodyear has stood the mining industry's traditional volume-based strategy on its head, focusing on earnings. "It's not about shifting tons of ore," he says. "Whether you're in computers or in minerals, returns are what the game's all about." BHP's strategy was helped by surging demand from China, which now represents 12% of sales. China is so important, in fact, that Goodyear held a recent board meeting not in London or Melbourne but in Beijing. What about a possible China slowdown? Come what may, Goodyear says, "we will stay profitable."