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The post-New Year silly season flushed out a dubious survey about how high-achievers at school go on to take high positions in industry. It didn't name anyone famous, but quickly became a talking point.

Of 105 business leaders interviewed, 70% claimed to have been school prefects and 50% said they had captained their school sports teams.

I suspect that most boardroom leaders were late developers who did not excel at school. JP Garnier of GlaxoSmithKline is a good example. He was a rebel at school, yet still rose to become CEO of one of the world’s biggest companies.

I put in calls to old boy associations at Harrow and Winchester. One Old Harrovian businessman who sprang to mind was Julian Metcalfe, co-founder of Pret A Manger, who, according to former teachers, ‘didn’t do that well’. John Duffield, the millionaire fund manager, ‘hated’ Harrow.

Famous Old Wykehamists to excel in business include Sir Jeremy Morse, past chairman of Lloyds Bank, who was head of school and ‘won every prize going’.

Another high achiever was Murray Lawrence, later chairman of Lloyd’s of London. He was captain of cricket at Winchester.

Michael Mclintock, 43-year-old chief executive of M&G, the fund manager, was head of school and captain of cricket at Malvern College in Worcestershire. Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth, the man who revitalised Tesco in the 80s was also a Malvern cricket captain.

There are many more examples of school drop-outs who went on to become billionaires, Sir Richard Branson not least among them.

Claims of youthful achievements should be treated with caution. To quote an old Polish proverb: ‘Only the future is certain; the past is always changing.’

Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times

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