The corridors of power…

Ask Dianne Thompson, chief executive of Camelot, the lottery operator.

In early 2001, Thompson was on a roll. She had seen off a challenge from Sir Richard Branson and was set to take the lottery into a bold new era.

Then she found herself named Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year.

Within weeks, it had all begun to unravel. Thompson embarked on a desperate bid to reverse falling lottery sales. She came up with a new name, Lotto, but that didn’t do much. Billy Connolly was signed to front a multi-million pound advertising campaign. Market research showed that consumers liked the ads, but didn’t know what they were promoting.

How depressing is that?

But Thompson is in good company. The Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year in 2000, Nikki Beckett, promptly fell out of favour with the City when her NSB Retail Systems issued a string of profit warnings. Two other previous winners, Sophie Mirman of Sock Shop and Debbie Moore of Pineapple Dance Studios, suffered similar falls from grace.

This year’s winner was Barbara Cassani, former chief executive of Go, the low-cost airline.

Many continue to thrive after winning an award, but those who flounder can be sure that it will come back to haunt them.

The ‘curse’ extends to office design. In 2000, the runner-up in a contest to find the UK’s most innovative workplace won high praise for its Zen zone, which came with fish tanks and pebbles, and Action zone in which teams could get together and brainstorm.

And the firm in question? None other than Arthur Andersen.

Jon Ashworth, business features editor at The Times.

Related reading