Sheffield-born boss wins top European chief executive award

A Sheffield-born boss has been hailed one of the best in Europe in a prestigious awards.

By David Walsh
Monday, 17 June, 2019, 09:53
Mike Brennan.

Mike Brennan has won CEO Today magazine’s 2019 European Business Award.

Fellow winners include leaders of huge firms including Total SA, AXA, Deutsche Telekom AG, Shell, Ericsson, UBS, Roche, Glencore, and Centrica.

Mike Brennan.

Mike, aged 53, has turned around recruitment company Norman Broadbent, fired it to £9.2m revenue, its best in 10 years, and branched out into advisory services. Losses have more than halved to £600,000.

He said: “I didn’t have to apply, I received an email from CEO Today. It took a while to sink in.

“One of my MDs found about it and announced it to the whole team which was embarrassing but actually this recognises the work they have done so it’s about them as well.”

The gong crowns an impressive career which has seen him build recruitment firms in London, Kong Kong and Tokyo. He has also established and managed operations in New York, Dubai, and Singapore.

Starting his first business aged 27 with cash from James Caan CBE and Alexander Mann, he was one of four partners involved in its subsequent sale to private equity firm Advent International for £50m.

Mike was born in Jessops Hospital in Sheffield and lived in Wath-upon-Dearne with his district nurse mum and miner dad and three sisters.

He attended St Joseph’s Primary and Wath Comprehensive where he did ‘A’ levels. It was there head of sixth form Bob Godber pushed him to go to university.

Choking back tears, Mike said: “He was really good, very inspirational. He brought it all together for me although he probably didn’t realise. I just got a bit choked, but you’ve got to be very genuine with people when you’re leading a business or they see straight through you.”

His parents had a “phenomenal” work ethic which also influenced him, he added.

An uncle who worked in business in Paris sparked something in him too.

“I visited him in Paris. He spoke another language, he’d travelled. He showed what else was out there.

“Today, I’m always first one in at 7am. I’m still enjoying what I do.”

But despite his travels, Yorkshire still exerts a strong pull.

“In Hong Kong they thought my accent was Australian. I was horrified.

“My parents are in Conisborough, my wife Lisa is from Sheffield and I have two sisters still in Yorkshire.

“I’m a proper Yorkshireman and although I live in Surrey there’s always a little part of me that hankers for it. One day I might.”