Monday 16 October 2017

The Punt: Musical chairs at Icon has corks popping

There's been a flurry of seat-swapping over at Icon, the Leopardstown-based company that provides outsourcing services to the pharmaceutical industry. Dr Steve Cutler, until recently its president of clinical research services, has been promoted to chief operating officer.

Corks will be popping, no doubt, over at his place; Icon's senior staff receive some of the largest pay packages in the country. Bloomberg research estimated that chief executive Ciaran Murray, a UCD commerce alumni, took home €7m in 2012, more than any other chief executive of the 15 largest companies listed on the Irish Stock Exchange.

Mr Cutler wasn't doing badly in his old role either; he took home about €3.7m over the year. Compare that with Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary (below) -- his salary was just (just!) €1.35m in 2012, though it also included share options.

It's pretty clear that Icon has long outgrown its humble roots. Founded by doctors John Climax and Ronan Lambe, it started out two decades ago with a team of just five and now employs more than 10,000 people around the globe, serving massive clients such as Pfizer. At the start of last year the company ended its Irish stock exchange listing and moved its primary listing to the Nasdaq.

Counting cost of losing talent

Mincon, the Shannon-headquartered mining company that recently floated on the Irish Stock Exchange, has appointed a new chief financial officer. The man in question is Brian Lenihan -- not a member of the Lenihan political dynasty. He will take over from John Doris, who was occupying the role on an interim basis.

Lenihan joins Mincon from 'big four' accounting firm KPMG, where he was a director. He is a qualified accountant. His move, from practice to industry, is a familiar one -- every young accountant we talk to seems determined to rack up a few years of experience with an accountancy firm and then move into industry, which is viewed as both more lucrative and exciting.

Of course, that strategy is not really ideal for the firms who pay and invest their time in training these same young accountants. Perhaps that's why we're increasingly hearing reports of longer obligatory service periods tied into trainee accountant contracts.

But, of course, Mr Lenihan bucks that mould, moving into industry so much later in his career. His appointment completes one of the main business targets set out by Mincon during its flotation process. His experience working with public companies should prove valuable, especially given that Mincon has earmarked most of the cash raised from its IPO for acquisitions.

CEO Sinnamon gets off to flyer

Julie Sinnamon has a tough act to follow after the success achieved by her predecessor Frank Ryan.

But the new Enterprise Ireland CEO put in an impressive performance at her first media appearance.

Indeed, so comprehensive and lengthy was her opening statement, that Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton looked a little redundant and uncomfortable.

But he needed to be there, of course, to remind us about the Government's Action Plan for Jobs.

Ms Sinnamon (below) listed the agency's key achievements in the past year. But her big challenge now will be ensuring that the momentum and success of the agency can be maintained, even with dwindling resources and staff cuts.

Asked how she would leave her mark, she gave a somewhat less than clear answer about a need for more focus on middle-sized companies.

Nevertheless, she's clearly in command of her brief.

But the challenge will be in ensuring that Enterprise Ireland's story remains a good one.

Irish Independent

Also in Business