Alison Brittain named Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of 2017

Alison Brittain holding her Veuve Clicquot award Image copyright Veuve Clicquot

Alison Brittain, chief executive of Whitbread, has been named as Veuve Clicquot's business woman of 2017.

A career banker, she joined Whitbread in 2016, becoming one of only a handful of women running FTSE 100 firms.

Whitbread owns Premier Inn, Brewers Fayre and Beefeater Grill restaurants, and the coffee chain Costa.

Receiving the award she follows in the footsteps of Body Shop founder Anita Roddick and former Pearson boss Marjorie Scardino.

The judging panel said Ms Brittain was "a role model for women striving to reach the top of large organisations and working across a range of traditionally male-dominated sectors".

Image copyright Veuve Clicquot

"I have a huge passion for people and a huge passion for... customer-orientated businesses," said Ms Brittain.

"I have a lot of energy, and I love complex problems... and I'm hugely curious about things in the world."

Ms Brittain joined Barclays Bank as a graduate trainee and later became head of retail banking at Lloyds Banking Group.

She was appointed chief executive of Whitbread, which says it is the UK's largest hospitality company, in January 2016.

Previous winners include:

1984 Debbie Moore, founder of Pineapple Dance Studios

1985 Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

1991 Prue Leith, manager of the Prudence Leith catering group, and new Great British Bake Off judge

1998 Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of Pearson

2008 Carolyn McCall, then chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, now boss of EasyJet

2012 Anya Hindmarch, fashion designer

2013 Zaha Hadid, architect

The Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award was created in 1972 as a tribute to Madame Clicquot, who in the early 19th Century developed modern champagne-making techniques and established the Veuve Clicquot brand.

The champagne house describes her as having been "proud, stubborn and strong-willed".

As this year's winner, Ms Brittain will visit Veuve Clicquot in France, where she will have a vine named after her.

Image copyright Veuve Clicquot

Veuve Clicquot - La Grande Dame de la Champagne

  • Barbe-Nicole Clicquot was widowed in 1804, at the age of 27
  • She inherited her husband's business interests in banking, wool trading and champagne production
  • Veuve (the French for widow) Clicquot developed a technique called riddling, still used today, to clarify the sparkling wine and produced the first vintage champagne
  • During the Napoleonic wars she defied an embargo against Russia to supply royal courts throughout Europe
  • Known by her peers as "La Grande Dame de la Champagne", she died in 1866

Veuve Clicquot also gave its first social purpose award to Jude Kelly, the artistic director of London's Southbank Centre.

Ms Kelly founded the Women of the World festival and developed the cultural strategy for London's Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012.

Alice Bentinck, the founder of Entrepreneur First, a investment programme for start-ups, received the Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award.

Ms Bentinck has supported graduates and set up a not-for-profit computer coding course for young women.

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