Revenue: $8.9 billion
Colgate-Palmolive is the global giant behind such household brand names as Colgate, Ajax, Murphy’s Oil, Palmolive and, of course, Irish Spring. William Shanahan is the driving force behind the company’s success.
As president and chief operating officer, Shanahan counts among his responsibilities the management of all the geographic divisions, such as Africa and Europe, as well as the global marketing group. With Colgate-Palmolive’s presence in 210 countries, including Ireland, Shanahan has his work cut out for him…and he’s no stranger to jet lag.
A native of Ohio, Shanahan earned a degree in geography from Dartmouth College. After a few years playing pro basketball in the Philippines, he joined Colgate-Palmolive because their international presence allowed him to indulge his lifelong passion — travel.
After stints in Canada, Mexico and Brazil, he returned to the U.S. in 1977 and was promoted to COO in 1989 and president in 1992. He currently spends almost half the year traveling.
There’s no pinning the man down; his interests range from abstract art to anthropology to building race cars. He sits on the board of Girls, Inc. and the corporate board of the Whitney Museum of American Art. A third-generation Irish American, he traces his roots back to Tipperary. He is married with three grown children.
Kane, Saunders and Smart
John Sharkey began his career with Litton Industries, and later held positions with General Electric Company and the ROLM Corporation. He was involved with the start-up of a voice-messaging company in Silicon Valley in 1982 before joining MCI Worldcom four years later.
As vice president at MCI Worldcom, Sharkey assisted in designing and implementing their corporate large account program. He retired from MCI in June 1999 after fourteen years, during which time the company grew from revenues of $2.5 billion with 10,500 employees to revenues of $34 billion and 70,000 employees. He is now chairman and chief executive officer of Kane, Saunders and Smart, a commerce and technology advisory company.
One would be hard pressed to find an Irish American more devoted to Ireland. Sharkey is a board member of several Irish and Irish American organizations, including Glucksman Ireland House at New York University, the Smurfit Graduate School at University College Dublin and Belfast’s FLAX Trust. He is also one of file founding members of the Ireland Chamber of Commerce in the U.S.A. (ICCUSA).
Among his many honors is the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Smurfit Graduate School’s recent creation of a “Chair of Electronic Commerce” in his name. In 1998 alone, he opened Belfast and Dublin commerce and industry council chapters and participated in Hillary Clinton’s Women’s Rights Vital Voices meeting in Northern Ireland. He also recently donated $1 million to The American Ireland Fund.
A native New Yorker and second-generation Irish American with roots in Counties Tyrone and Roscommon, Sharkey majored in marketing management at Iona College and at the Management Institute of New York University. He has also studied at the London Business School, Harvard and Northwestern’s Kellogg School. He and his wife Helen live in New York City.
John F. Smith, Jr.
General Motors Corporation
Revenue: $169 billion
Worcester, Massachusetts native Jack Smith is widely credited with playing a very important role in the resurgence of Michigan’s General Motors at a time when other car manufacturers were experiencing difficulties.
GM is the world’s largest full-line vehicle manufacturer, and also has business interests in electronic, telecommunications and information technologies. The company just signed an agreement to be the exclusive automotive sponsor for the U.S. Olympic Committee through the year 2008, and is expected to spend as much as $11 billion to this end, dwarfing previous sports sponsorship deals, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Smith, a B.B.A. graduate of the University of Massachusetts, earned an M.B.A. from Boston University and was later awarded honorary doctorates from both institutions as well as from Providence College, Michigan State University, Kettering University and Holy Cross. His grandparents came from Counties Cavan, Clare, and Kerry and he is married with three children.
James M. Sullivan
Executive Vice President, Lodging
Revenue: $10 billion
As executive vice president of lodging development for Marriott International, James Sullivan has responsibility for the worldwide growth of Marriott’s lodging brands, including Marriott Hotels, Resorts &Suites, RitzCarlton Hotels, Courtyard by Marriott and Renaissance Hotels.
Sullivan has led Marriott’s lodging development organization since 1990. In that capacity he directs offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo, London, Frankfurt, Brazil, Zurich and the United States as well as the company’s merger &acquisition activities. He is also chairman of Marriott’s growth committee.
Sullivan’s prior positions with Marriott include senior vice president of finance for Marriott lodging; vice president of mergers and acquisitions: and vice president of finance and planning for Marriott restaurant and theme park operations.
A graduate of Boston College and the University of Connecticut, Sullivan began his career in 1965 with Arthur Andersen &Co. in New England. A second-generation Irish American, he traces his roots back to County Cork and is a member of Americans for a Democratic Ireland. He is married with four children.♦