Magazine article Newsweek

Up from Down Under: More Australians Get the Nod to Run Big U.S. Firms

Magazine article Newsweek

Up from Down Under: More Australians Get the Nod to Run Big U.S. Firms

Article excerpt

Picture the Marlboro Man—cigarette hanging from his lips, Coke in one hand, driving a Ford pickup. It's a bedrock American image. But look a little bit closer—the guy sitting behind the wheel is Crocodile Dundee, flashing his mischievous smile. Farfetched? Not by much. Consider this: the top executives of Ford (Jac Nasser), Philip Morris (Geoff Bible) and Coca-Cola (Douglas Daft) all hail from Australia.

CEOs may seem an unlikely export from a land originally settled by convicts. But after Daft was named last month to succeed Douglas Ivester as chairman and chief executive of Coca-Cola, this fledgling trend of Aussies infiltrating the highest reaches of corporate America was big news in Australia.

So what's driving the rise of Australian CEOs? Nasser told NEWSWEEK that playing sports as a kid—particularly Australian "football'' with its loose rules—prepared him well for the top job. "It's a very practical education system for growing potential leaders,'' he said. He also noted that Australians often leave the country to broaden their business experience—good training for running a global company. "The Australian spirit makes you want to experience different cultures,'' he said. Daft and Bible weren't available to offer their theories.

Because Aussies don't carry much political or cultural baggage into other countries, they usually fit in easily. Their management style—which tends to be open, egalitarian and not overly serious—also plays well with the troops. …

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