2009 Asia Business Leader Award

When China’s COFCO Corp. Chairman Frank Ning was named the 2009 Asia Business Leader last week in Singapore by CNBC Asia Pacific, he remarked that he was sure he received the award because he is from China. Given all that he has accomplished, Frank’s humility is admirable. Yet, there is an element of truth in what he said. 2009 may go down in history as the year that China arrived as a leader on the world stage, its rise accelerated in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Ning’s award is but one more indication of just how far the country has come.

Ning Gaoning was born in 1958 in Shandong Province. He graduated from Shandong University and then received an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business in 1987. Ning gained the CNBC top award mainly for leading COFCO through multiple phases of growth, helping it evolve in the whole agro-business chain of growing, storage, processing, trading and branding.

COFCO (China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation) is China’s largest food processing, manufacturer and trader whose history dates back to 1949. It was and still is China’s largest agro-products and food importer and exporter, playing a dominant role in wheat, corn, rice and sugar import and export. Largely under Frank’s leadership, its business has extended from grain, oil and food trading and processing to bio-energy, real estate, hotels and finance. COFCO’s eight divisions and 30 subsidiaries offer brands in various markets including Fortune edible oils, Great Wall wines, the Gloria Hotel Group, and Le Conte chocolate. COFCO has been listed in Fortune magazine’s Global Top 500 Companies since 1994.

CNBC pioneered the Asia Business Leaders Awards (ABLA) to salute remarkable business leaders for their continuing commitment to excellence, developing best practices and innovative strategies. ABLA have distinguished and honored Asian leaders who have contributed to and shaped the Asian economy.

Hainan Aviation Group Chairman Chen Feng won the award in 2005, but of the six other winners, four have been from India, and the remaining two have been from the Philippines and Japan. Ning is only the second Chinese businessmen to have received the award. Frank said that now that he has won, he is certain that many more Chinese businessmen will participate in future contests. I’m sure that he is right.

As a fellow Pittsburgher, I was quite happy to see Frank honored. Congratulations!

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