Swimming legend-turned-finance executive Grant Hackett has been appointed CEO of Melbourne-based investment house Generation Development Group (ASX: GDG), with a focus on growing its recently acquired business Ascalon Capital Managers.
Hackett joined GDG in September 2017 and has been "instrumental" in lifting sales performance for its bond solutions Life business by more than 70 per cent in FY18.
The appointment is effective from the conclusion of today's annual general meeting (AGM), with Hackett's first call of business to be launching a seed vehicle for Ascalon to invest in alternative investment funds in the Asia Pacific region.
Hackett will also be responsible for the distribution of Generation Life's investment bond business in Australia until the end of FY19.
He will report to GDG executive chairman Rob Coombe, who first hired the Olympic champion at Westpac after his retirement from swimming.
"There he had run a lot of divisions for me. He was a great sales leader and had great results," Coombe tells Business News Australia.
However, in 2014 Hackett suffered from a highly publicised breakdown after his marriage fell apart, which eventually led to Westpac letting him go. Hackett had battled with drug addiction and was involved in a few incidents leading up to an arrest over an outburst in his family's home in early 2017.
So was it a gamble for Coombe to take Hackett back under his wing?
"I'd spent a lot of time with him before bringing him into the business to make sure his head was in the right place, that he was getting professional help, that he had a plan to overcome the issues that he'd had before," Coombe says.
"He's on song, he's as good as he's ever been. Grant at his best in sport was obviously amazing, but on the business side of things he's extremely smart, he presents well he's got great EQ, great IQ. He's quite formidable.
"Some people might say it was a gamble but for me, I don't view it like that. I view him at his best and I believed that he was ready to be at his best again and he's proven that over the last 12 months."
We ask Coombe whether there is enough of a culture in Australia of giving people a second chance to get back on their feet after falling down.
"If you're going to take the risk you need to be convinced that the person understood why they made the mistakes, and they've got a plan in place to actually deal with that," he replies.
"I wouldn't just mindlessly give somebody a second chance if they hadn't done either of those.
"It's a great story again actually because not everyone overcomes those kind of things, but Grant's well on track to converting himself to having a very successful business career.
Hackett holds an executive MBA from Bond University and prior to his career in finance he was an Olympic champion for Australia and has held multiple world records for swimming.
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