Under the harsh glare of the media spotlight, the games were a resounding success in every aspect – they were the largest and most successful multi-sports event ever held in the UK, involving 6,000 athletes, watched by 800,000 spectators and a television audience of one billion.
Leather, 38, a former KPMG senior manager, did what many detractors considered to be almost impossible: he ensured a major British sporting event was free of financial controversy, met all its revenue projections and was carried out without almost any hitches.
From the beginning, the nature of Leather’s job was unique – years of preparation going back to 1997, for an event which lasted just 11 days and then six months to wind everything down, pay accounts, bring in remaining revenues and close up shop, a task he is currently undertaking. As one judge remarked: ‘He’s responsible for a remarkable achievement in a short period of time.’
Much of the media scrutiny came from Leather’s handling of public funds with more than £170m being pumped into the games, with the majority – £110m – being spent on the showpiece City of Manchester Stadium, now being primed for use by Manchester City football club.
But as Leather correctly predicted, the stadiums as well as the other venues were practically sold out for every night of competition. So successful in fact were the games, that they are now expected to exceed revenue targets, mainly due to ‘walk up’ ticket purchases.
Furthermore, the games have helped put the city of Manchester on the map as a venue for future major sporting events Ñ they also created 6,000 jobs and helped to regenerate some of the most neglected parts of the city.
Ensuring the Commonwealth Games were not tainted with the same brush that has blackened both Wembley and the Millennium Dome, and with the financial disasters of Enron and WorldCom still fresh in the mind, Leather had to ensure there was no room for error.
To this end, he kept the financial books under close watch through a range of sources including his own internal audit team, a team of external auditors from Ernst & Young, independent auditors from PricewaterhouseCoopers and government watchdog the National Audit Office.
In addition to his financial responsibilities, in his role as deputy chief executive, Leather had to manage more than 500 contracts ranging from sponsorships, licensing, merchandising and hospitality.
As a result, judges of the award were hugely impressed. They described Leather’s triumph as a ‘remarkable achievement’, and ‘innovative’.
‘The Commonwealth Games were a fantastic achievement thanks in no small part to the FD. He deserves a lot of personal credit,’ one judge remarked.
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