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Australia’s top business leaders honoured by The CEO Magazine at gala event in Sydney

The CEO Magazine 5 mins read


A scientist leading the fight against childhood cancer, a young entrepreneur who borrowed a van at 21 to build an appliance enterprise and the CEO running one of the world’s leading media agencies were all honoured at The CEO Magazine’s prestigious Executive of the Year Awards this evening.


The magazine had a record number of entries for its 12th annual awards, which were presented at a glittering ceremony hosted by Larry Emdur at The Star Sydney.


During the glamorous, Hollywood-themed evening, guests were treated to performances by chart-topping concert pianist and global sensation Van-Anh Nguyen, jazz legend James Morrison and superstar DJ Emma Peters.


Among the major award winners were:



Children’s Cancer Institute Executive Director Michelle Haber AM won the evening’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to childhood cancer research. The world-renowned scientist’s groundbreaking work has doubled the survival rates for some cancers and led to more effective treatments, which have given hope to patients and their families.


Michelle’s speech upon receiving her award was truly inspiring.


“What a great honour it is to receive this award tonight.” Michelle said.  

“I’ve been privileged to receive accolades for my research, but to receive an award as a CEO… well, that’s a first, and I’m very proud!” she said.

 “My proudest achievement, over almost 40 years, is establishing the Zero Childhood Cancer Program, or ZERO, which we run in partnership with the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital.

“ZERO recognises that every child’s cancer is unique. By analysing the genetics of each child and their cancer, we can understand what’s happening at a molecular level, and use this understanding to formulate personalised treatment recommendations. Results have shown that this approach significantly improves outcomes, and there are children alive today who would not be without ZERO. 

“Over my career, I’ve learnt that flashes of inspiration can take years to translate into reality… but by thinking outside the box, leading the way, and bringing the right people together, extraordinary things can be achieved.

“I absolutely believe that one day, we will be able to cure all children with cancer, and that it’s not if, it’s when.”  Michelle said.


The CEO Magazine Founder, Chris Dutton, paid tribute to Michelle Haber, declaring her a worthy Lifetime Achievement recipient:


“Our magazine shines a light on leaders driving positive change, and few have achieved more in improving outcomes for young cancer patients than Michelle,” he said. “Her extraordinary work makes this a thoroughly well-deserved award.”



John Winning, CEO at Winning Group, has been awarded the coveted CEO of the Year Award A$100m+. He founded Appliances Online in 2005 at 21 years of age with just a laptop, borrowed van and a 1300 number that diverted calls to his mobile. Today Appliances Online is Australia’s online market leader and one of 19 companies that form the Winning Group.


John expressed gratitude to CEO magazine for naming him CEO of the Year, emphasising the honour of being recognised among top Australian business leaders. 


"I'm incredibly grateful to CEO Magazine for this recognition as CEO of the Year. At the heart of this achievement lies with our entire team at Winning Group - their relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to our vision is the cornerstone of our success. Their work and dedication are the true architects of this accolade.

Leading the Winning Group, our family business with a legacy spanning over a century, is a privilege. We have evolved into a catalyst for positive change. We're not just redefining retail in Australia and beyond; our ambition stretches across diverse sectors including logistics, technology, science, education, hospitality, media and extreme sports. Our identity transcends traditional retail - we're in the business of crafting extraordinary experiences. My role as CEO is not just about driving profit, but about making a significant, meaningful impact with our customers, our team, communities, and the environment, all while ensuring our commercial viability."  John said.


CEO OF THE YEAR A$20m–A$100m

Initiative Australia CEO Melissa Fein has won the CEO of the Year A$20m–A$100m Award for 2023. She has helped supercharge growth for her many clients during an extraordinary 12 months. Melissa is also Director of Swimming Australia.


On receiving her award, Melissa said: “What an incredible honour it is to be recognised here tonight  amongst an incredibly talented category.  I’m so proud of myself and my leadership team who have been on this journey with me and who have helped create a world class and globally recognised business. I am deeply enthusiastic about my involvement in external boards, and I express gratitude to the YPO for their valuable support in sustaining my forum.


The judging panel included John Karagounis, Executive Chair, The CEO Circle; Ronni Kahn, CEO and Founder, OzHarvest; Andrew Hume, CEO, Converge International; Scott Power, CEO, BMD; Tristan SternsonCEO, ARQ Group and Global Co-Lead, NCS NEXT; Chris Dutton, Founder, The CEO Magazine and Anna Dutton, Co-Founder and Executive Director, The CEO Magazine.


For the full list of winners – see below or here

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Marlene Richardson | GasbagPR | 0409 888 218





Winners of The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards 2023

CEO of the Year A$100m+

Winner: John Winning                                    CEO                                        Winning Group

Runner-up: Michael Rebelo                           CEO                                        Publicis Groupe

Highly Commended: Guy Chalkley                CEO                                        Endeavour Energy


CEO of the Year A$20m-A$100m

Winner: Melissa Fein                                      CEO                                        Initiative Australia

Runner-Up: Vincent Nair                                CEO & President                     SMARTECH Business Systems

Highly Commended: Ephram Stephenson     CEO & Founder                      Collar Group                       


Entrepreneur of the Year

Winner: Richard Joffe                                     CEO & Founder                       Honey Insurance

Runner-Up: Sharon Melamed                         MD & Founder                         Matchboard

Highly Commended: Elke Pascoe                  CEO & Founder                       The LittleOak Company

Highly Commended: Evan Buist                     MD & Founder                         Melodie Music


Managing Director of the Year

Winner: Daniel Debattista                               Managing Director                   PARC Engineering

Runner-Up: Mushfiq Rahman                         CEO & MD                              Eire Constructions

Highly Commended: David Gagovski             CEO & MD                              Cleaning Melbourne


Not-For-Profit Executive of the Year

Winner:  Louise Baxter                                   CEO & Executive Director      Starlight Children’s                      Foundation Australia

Runner-Up:  Lance Kawaguchi                      CEO                                        Cure Brain Cancer Foundation

Highly Commended: Sophie Ryan                 CEO                                        Sony Foundation Australia                                     


Startup Executive of the Year

Winner: Rashid Khan                                     CEO & Founder                       Evacovation

Runner-Up: Selda Kaplan                              CEO & Co-Founder                 TaxLeopard

Highly Commended: Rebecca Petroff            Director                                   Sunstate Conveyancing


Young Executive of the Year

Winner: Alexander Graham                            Head of Environmental,           MoneyMe Financial Group

Social and Governance

Runner-Up: Daniel Clements                         Executive Director                   Whitehouse Institute of Design


Highly Commended: Jordan Cullen               Director & Founder                   Cullen Jewellery


Lifetime Achievement Award

Michelle Haber AM                                         Executive Director                   Children’s Cancer Institute                             


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