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Crossover Stars is PRovoke Media's annual ‘Hall of Fame’ for those communicators whose career trajectory has extended beyond communications, marketing and sales into a broader core business function within their organisations. Our 10 Crossover Stars for 2023 have titles including CEO, partner, SVP, regional head, president and chairman.
“It’s not enough to be responsible. You have to get a return on it. I experienced personal traumas caused by others’ irresponsible drinking. That’s why my responsibility is to lend my voice and humanize issues,” Pernod Ricard’s North America chairman and CEO Ann Mukherjee told Time magazine earlier this year.
In the same interview, Mukherjee – the first woman and person of color to lead the drink’s company’s North America unit – said: “Consumers have a higher standard around brands they trust. They expect those brands to be walking the talk. Return on responsibility is what consumers expect of us. It actually drives return on investment. Making it part of your DNA not only future-proofs your business, it also creates the loyalty you need. We only go after those issues that drive value, our company values, and our purpose of conviviality.”
Mukherjee became the first global marketing chief at SC Johnson in 2015, leading marketing efforts for brands that include Glade, Pledge, Raid, Windex, Ziploc, Brise, Mr. Muscle and Ridsect. In 2018, she moved away from her marketing roots into the role of global chief commercial officer, which gave her the management springboard to take on the North America leadership role at Pernod Ricard at the end of 2019, overseeing brands such as Beefeater gin, Havana Club rum, Jameson whisky and Perrier-Jouët champagne.
Soon after her arrival, Mukherjee launched an Absolut Vodka campaign around sexual consent, and she is working on taking a Dallas pilot project that combats binge drinking and impaired driving nationwide.
Mukherjee had moved to SC Johnson from PepsiCo, which she joined in 2005 in Frito-Lay’s Convenience Foods Division, responsible for leading marketing, new product innovation, consumer insights and strategy and for all Quaker-branded snacking. She carved out a reputation for building brands via traditional marketing and social media savvy. In 2009, she was named Frito-Lay North America chief marketing officer.
A consumer brands veteran, Mukherjee began her marketing career at Citibank Diners Club working on new product development, and worked for 11 years at Kraft, on brands including Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese, Kraft Singles, Taco Bell, Minute Rice, Stove Top Stuffing, Velveeta and DiGiorno.
Nestlé has had its fair share of controversies around the world, from its marketing of infant formula in Africa to its use of palm oil, and has worked hard to build bridges with stakeholders and to back up its claims of social responsibility with actions. From late 2015, Nestlé’s reputation was in the hands of group corporate communications and public affairs director Eugenio Simioni. In January 2020, Simioni moved into a broader leadership role, as chief executive of Nestlé Switzerland, returning to the role he previously held from 2011 to 2015.
Since then, he has been vocal about the Swiss multinational food and drink company’s sustainability agenda, from reducing food waste to creating a diverse and inclusive culture at Nestlé. He was succeeded in the global communications leadership role last year by former North America lead Lisa Gibby, who once again has a place on the Influence 100 this year.
Simioni began his career at Nestlé in 1989 and had been head of internal audit function for the Nestlé Group and sales director for Nestlé in the Philippines, before taking on the market leadership role for the first time.
Isabel De Paoli was named as head of group communications at Merck, the German chemical, pharmaceutical and life sciences company, in 2015, and elevated to the newly-created role of chief strategy officer a year later, taking responsibility for the integration of strategy, innovation and digitalisation across Merck.
After building Merck’s corporate science and tech ventures fund and launching business ventures investing in new technologies, in 2021 De Paoli parted ways with Merck to return to her private equity roots, joining the global healthcare team of EQT as a partner. At the time of her appointment, she said: “Teaming up with EQT will give me an even broader platform and perspective, especially given the focus on creating positive impact with each investment across the board. Investing in and developing the healthcare industry, in all shapes and forms, is a great opportunity to make life better for so many.”
De Paoli, a process and chemical engineering graduate, first joined Merck in 2006 as business development manager, chemicals, before promotion to head of strategic planning, oncology in 2009. Earlier, she had been a consultant with The Boston Consulting Group, and had also worked at private equity firm Permira. She also has a place on the supervisory board of medical technology firm Carl Zeiss Meditec.
Last year, Jackson Jeyanayagram moved into his first CEO role at ready-to-drink gin, juice & seltzer beverage company Hey, Hei, part of the Anheuser-Busch family. The former long-time WE Communications and Taylor executive went in-house in 2015, but didn’t go straight to the marketing or communications team: he first took up a head of digital role at Chipotle. His first CMO post was in 2016, when he moved to online wholesaler Boxed, where his role covered everything from data science to operations, customer service, merchandise and supply chain, as well as overseeing brand marketing, paid media, content, SEO, influencer relations and internal and external communications.
Jeyanayagram moved beyond marketing in January 2019, when he became VP and general manager of direct-to-consumer at multi-billion-dollar consumer and professional cleaning products manufacturer Clorox. There, he oversaw the P&L for retail brands including Burt's Bees, Brita, and divisions including petcare and cleaning.
He also serves on the board of non-profit Goodwill Industries and is an advisor to creative tech company Social Native and mobile marketing firm Button.
In December 2016, Juan Manuel Cendoya, the long-serving head of corporate communications for Banco Santander, was named vice chairman of the board of directors for Santander Spain, an unusual promotion for a public relations executive. He has now been with the firm for 21 years.
Cendoya was previously SVP of communications, corporate marketing and research marketing for the bank, leading the group’s internal and external communications, corporate marketing, corporate social responsibility, institutional relations, economic research and public policy and serving as a member of the bank’s global executive committee. He has played a major role in its evolution from a disparate financial services empire with more than 20 separate names to the Santander brand we know today. Cendoya played a major role in that evolution.
Since she was named chief marketing officer at JPMorgan Chase in 2014, Kristin Lemkau has done everything in her power to dispel the misperception that financial services companies are stodgy and conservative marketers. She has worked with the firm for nearly 24 years, and in 2019 moved into a broader leadership role as CEO of JP Morgan Wealth Management, last year appointing former Merrill Lynch senior marketer Paul Halpern as her new CMO for US wealth management at the private bank.
As CMO, her role included responsibility for company-wide brand strategy and advertising, sponsorships, market research and event marketing. After joining the company in 1998, she also had oversight of media relations and internal communications. Prior to JPMorgan Chase, Lemkau held communications roles with Allied Signal and Freeport McMoRan.
Matthew Gain is in the unusual position of segueing straight from PR agency to corporate management, without an in-house communications role in the middle. At the start of 2016 he moved from Edelman Australia to Amazon’s audiobook company Audible. As country manager and head of Australia and New Zealand he helped to develop Audible’s offering across ANZ, before being promoted in mid-2017 to SVP and head of Audible APAC, Japan and India.
In 2022, he moved regions to become head of Europe and managing director of Audible Germany, based in Berlin. He is responsible for leading Audible’s business and content investments across Europe, as well as setting and implementing growth plans, content plans, influencing and driving change across key stakeholders, improving processes to scale with high business growth and developing leaders across the business.
Before joining Audible, Gain spent nearly six years at Edelman, first as general manager of its Sydney office, and then COO for Australia.
Paul Chibe led marketing for global brands ranging from Quaker Oats and Wrigley – where he spent 10 years in various senior roles including overseeing the US gum and mints business – to Anheuser-Busch, serving as US chief marketing officer until 2014 before moving into broader business leadership.
His first CEO role in 2015 was at Ferrero North America, whose brands include Nutella, Tic Tac and Kinder, before being promoted to global president of sugar confectionery in 2021. The same year, he left Ferrero for independent brewer Pabst, based in Texas, whose brands include Pabst Blue Ribbon, Lone Star, Old Style, Stroh’s, Ranier, Old Milwaukee, National Bohemian, Schlitz, Colt 45, and, through partnerships, Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails, and Dragon’s Milk Barrel Aged Stout.
At Anheuser-Busch, his achievements included setting new company directions in social media, creating the large-scale Budweiser Made in America concert series with Jay Z and launching the Bud Light Platinum and Rita brands.
In an interview with Forbes while he was at Ferrero in 2020, Chibe said that the difficulty of moveing from marketing to general management was “there is an opinion that marketers don't have the functional context to move and make that transition,” such as understanding around supply chain, operations and the industrial processes related to managing a business. “The criticism always of a marketer is they worry about marketing but are not as worried about issues directly related to management of the business. And for those marketers that do think that way, it is a difficult transition to run the ‘mundane’ parts of the business. But if a marketer has the right attitude as they come along in their career, they can be quite well prepared to become the CEO.”
Entrusted with building and protecting Abu Dhabi’s reputation, Simon Pearce has a big budget and an even bigger remit. He is considered one of the UAE’s most influential officials and is particularly close to the Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi’s chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak (also the CEO of Mubadala Investment Company), for whom he helped “smooth the communication of the Manchester City Football Club takeover,” according to the Wall Street Journal (he is also a board member at the club).
The EAA provides analysis and advice to the chairman of Abu Dhabi’s executive council across key government areas such as economic and energy affairs, legal and risk management, security and information management, and strategic communications.
Since taking on the position in 2006, Pearce has overseen a significant revamp of the kingdom’s communications strategy, and plays an important role in key assets such as the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix (he is on the board of Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management). Pearce came to the Middle East role after a life in the agency world, including a lengthy term at Burson-Marsteller, with positions on four continents, including as CEO of Australia; he is also vice chair of Melbourne City FC.
As SVP of public affairs at South Africa’s Sasol Gas until 2018, Wrenelle Stander was a rare example of an operational leader who had made the transition into a senior communications role. In 2018, she made the even rarer move of returning to corporate leadership at Comair: she joined the aviation and travel company as executive in charge of its airlines division (Kulula.com and British Airways, which Comair operates regionally as part of a license agreement), before being made joint CEO of the airlines business. In 2019, she took up a joint CEO role and soon after became group CEO of the entire business.
She was named chair of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa in 2020 but stood down in October 2021 to take on her current role as CEO of Wesgro, the tourism, trade and investment body for Cape Town and the Western Cape, with a mandate to grow the economy of the Cape and position the region to attract investors, filmmakers, buyers and tourists.
Before taking the communications role at Sasol, Stander served as its MD for almost four years. She previously served in public sector role, as deputy CEO of the South African Civil Aviation Authority, and MD of the Air Traffic and Navigation Services Company. Stander started her career in the NGO sector, including positioning the Minerals and Energy Policy Centre to be less dependent on donor funding.
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