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4. Sam Barnett
\nAfter nine years as chief operating officer, Sam Barnett, once an NGO worker, became CEO of MBC Group in 2011 which operates under chairman Sheikh Waleed Al Ibrahim. Barnett, an INSEAD graduate, joined the group in 2002 after his former employer Arthur Andersen imploded during the Enron scandal. He supported the chairman in restructuring the commercial flow of the company into the largest media and entertainment group in the Middle East and North Africa region, with 11 channels including the Al Arabiya news outlet and two radio stations and three online platforms under its umbrella. MBC was the first private free-to-air satellite broadcasting company in the Arab world after its launch in London in 1991. Barnett has overseen the launch of several new channels and the enforcement of commercial and financial disciplines on all operations.
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5. John Antoniades
\nStarcom MediaVest Group
\nJohn Antoniades heads the Middle East and North Africa operations of global media agency network Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG). He boasts over twenty years of experience in the media industry – working in key markets across both domestic and multi-national assignments. Antoniades began his professional career as a civil engineer; in 1995, he made his first foray into the realm of communications, joining Mediacentre UK (later MediaVest) as a media planner. He worked in Italy and then back in the UK, where he earned a place on both the London board and SMG’s global management group.
\nAntoniades was elevated to CEO of SMG MENA in September 2012. His responsibilities include growing SMG MENA organically; extending market leadership in the region through new business opportunities; and, driving the reputation and product leadership regionally and on a global stage. With operations in eight markets employing more than 300 multi-discipline specialists in the Arab world, Starcom MediaVest Group MENA is one of the largest brand communications groups and the biggest media agency in the region. Beyond growing double-digits since its launch in 2001, the network is one of the most awarded in the Middle East, having won multiple honours both regionally and internationally.
\nIn effect, SMG MENA has been named Media Agency of the year at the Dubai Lynx four times; in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014. This year, the Group also garnered a Media Agency of the Year award at the 2014 MENA Cristal Festival.
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17. John Brash
\nWhen John Brash is not in a boardroom, he’s likely in the air. Since its inception in the UAE in 2007, his eponymous branding agency has expanded so fast that today he’s asked to advise the C-suite of major corporations all over the world.
\nA native Scot who left for London in 1988 and never looked back, John put in almost 20 years in major London-based branding agencies, including four years taking Landor Associates into the Middle East. Here, he realised the enormous branding opportunities in emerging markets. A key early Brash project was branding Downtown Dubai — including the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa — which helped raise the emirate’s profile to become a global destination. Other mega-projects include Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, the rebranding of dnata for the Emirates Group, Etihad Rail and First Gulf Bank (FGB). Each involves a delicate balancing of commercial and political interests. Brash’s boundless energy, enthusiasm and natural curiosity ensure that the people at the top feel genuine personal engagement.
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27. Ian Fairservice
\nBack in 1979, Ian Fairservice was a 22-year-old former assistant manager at Dubai hotel, who quit his job for a career in publishing. His firm, Motivate Publishing, was established the same year with the launch of What’s On, the Gulf region’s first English-language magazine. Besides a wide range of magazines, the company now publishes books on topics related to the heritage of the Gulf, as well as travel and city guides and children’s titles. It also operates a cinema advertising company, Motivate Val Morgan, and co-stages the annual Dubai Lynx International Advertising Festival and awards, in a joint venture with the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.
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30. Mark Lobel
\nMiddle East Correspondent
\nMark is currently the BBC’s Middle East Business Correspondent, based in Dubai.. In his first few months in his new post, Lobel has hit the ground running, covering stories from Lebanon and Kuwait, reporting on Saudi Arabian affairs and Gulf diplomacy, interviewing many of the Gulf’s top CEOs and meeting many of the key players in the region. Lobel, who reports, films and edits for TV, records and edits for radio and writes for online news, has worked on some of Britain’s best and most well known TV and radio programmes, including Newsnight, Our World, The Six O’Clock News, Radio 4’s news and current affairs programmes and the Daily Politics, as well as BBC Online, producing award winning presenters and reporters including Jeremy Paxman, Allan Little and Lyse Doucet. His own reportage for Newsnight includes stories on Nigeria’s extremists Boko Haram, and UK health issues, in relation to which he also appeared on The Today Programme.
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31. Tom Urquhart
\nRadio and Television Personality
\nTom Urquhart is a television and radio presenter who formerly worked for a daily broadsheet newspaper in London. He is on air three times a week as presenter on Dubai Eye 103.8’s sport show, is a prominent part of the latest Emirates Airline campaign and is co-presenter of two Dubai One shows, Ask One and World of Sports. After studying English at university in the UK, Urquhart worked on several British newspapers, followed by a brief stint in public relations. He then worked as deputy editor of What’s On for Motivate Publishing and was editor at large for the launch of Hello Middle East. Urquhart has worked extensively on the small screen in the last decade. He was chosen as host for City 7s Good Morning Dubai show, the first live English language breakfast show in the UAE. He has also been featured in a Discovery Channel feature on ‘Dubai, A Place in the Sun’ from the UK. Most recently, he garnered plaudits for his role as presenter on The Entrepreneur, a reality show based in Dubai.
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33. Camilla and Lucy D’Abo
\nDabo & Co
\nSisters Camilla and Lucy set up Dabo & Co, a public relations and event management firm in 2004. It services clients in banking and finance, real estate, hospitality and retail. Clients currently include more than 40 leading brands such as HSBC, Julius Baer, Cisco, Jumeirah Restaurants, Art Dubai, BMW and Hilton, among others. Dabo & Co operates in 15 countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa region.
\nThe company does corporate communications, financial communications, brand market entry, crisis management, and media training. Lucy has a background in events management; she has managed events as diverse as IMF meetings to the Cartier Polo in Dubai. Camilla has a background in finance, and more than 12 years’ regional experience in PR. Their father, Philip D’Abo, is a director at Albwardy Investments.
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34. Chris Bell
\nFace to Face
\nChris Bell started his career at McCann Erickson in London when they were the biggest agency in the world. He worked at Coca-Cola and Gillette and then moved on to work for JWT London, who then transferred him to Dubai where he headed up the Unilever (Beverage) business across the region as group account director. He joined Face to Face in 2004 and with his partner bought out the previous owners. He has grown it into the biggest privately owned and independent ad agency in the region.
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38. Francis Matthew
\nEditor at Large
\nA University of Exeter graduate, Matthew is a regular commentator on the region on TV and radio, and has contributed to a variety of international conferences on Gulf affairs. Fluent in Arabic, he has played a large part in the development of Gulf News, the Gulf’s biggest-selling English-language daily. Matthew has worked in the Middle East as a journalist for 30 years, with occasional spells in Europe. He previously worked as managing editor of Al Nisr Media and spent time in London, Dublin and Brussels, with Lafferty Group, EMAP, and the Economist Intelligence Unit. Matthew is the co-editor of two pictorial histories of the UAE, Building a Nation and The Rise of a Nation.