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Size not Chaney’s only asset

WESFARMERS managing director Michael Chaney is clearly the most influential business executive in Western Australia.

His influence does not derive simply from running the State’s biggest company.

It also comes from the enormous respect he has gained from his outstanding success at Wesfarmers.

Mr Chaney is also a director of BHP Billiton, which has major operations in WA.

Tony Howarth’s influence continues to grow. He came to Perth in the early 1990s to run the former Perth Building Society, which became Challenge Bank and eventually part of Westpac Bank.

He is chairman of Alinta, a director of Home Building Society, Mermaid Marine, St John of God Health Care and Rio-Tinto WA Future Fund and immediate past president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Mr Howarth is seen as a ‘can do’ person, exemplified by the decisive manner in which he dealt with troubled broking house Hartleys.

As managing director of Burswood, John Schaap not only heads one of WA’s larger companies, he also plays a key role in the development of tourism and gaming policies.

Mr Schaap, who is considered very close to Premier Geoff Gallop, negotiated a deal last year in which Burswood not only retained its monopoly on gaming machines, it also received permission to install extra machines.

Alinta managing director Bob Browning has turned a potentially dozy WA utility into a national business with sound growth prospects.

The keys to this change were Alinta’s deal with AMP to jointly acquire the energy assets of Aquila and its planned move into electricity generation in WA in partnership with Alcoa.

Another Perth-based company with a growing national profile is Foodland Associated Limited.

Managing director Trevor Coates, an international veteran in the grocery industry, is highly respected for his achievements at Foodland.

Kerry Stokes’ position as chairman of the Seven Network makes him an important figure nationally.

Mr Stokes also has extensive private business interests through Australian Capital Equity, including Westrac, which holds licences for Caterpillar industrial equipment in parts of Australia and China.

Austal chairman John Rothwell remains an influential figure, in large part because his company is continually championed as a rare example of a successful high-tech export-oriented manufacturing business.

The prospect of a loss in 2003 has dented but certainly not destroyed Austal’s image.

Croesus Mining chairman Ron Manners enters the list as a colourful and unstinting champion of the gold mining industry.

He has never been shy about tackling governments over their lack of support for mining and his company – one of the few large Australian-owned gold miners – was recently named the Australian Gold Council’s Gold Company of the Year.

Woodside managing director John Akehurst has been dropped off the list from last year after being told his services would no longer be required.

Also off the list is Sons of Gwalia executive chairman Peter Lalor, whose company has suffered big losses and is out of favour with investors. He has also concluded his term as president of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy.

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