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Highs and lows for corporate chiefs in a rollercoaster year

AS another tumultuous year on the corporate and broader economic front draws to a close, we highlight some Scottish business personalities who will look back kindly on 2013, as well as some who will probably be hoping 2014 goes better.

The positive headlines were driven by an ambitious acquisition, a turnround from restructuring, and an executive comeback, while less welcome attention was focused on a challenge to business ethics, a plea to shareholders for a massive cash injection, and a retirement that didn't quite go according to plan.

Adrian Grace

It was a year of visible results for the man installed as chief executive of Aegon UK in 2011 as the Edinburgh-based insurer struggled to cut its staff by 25%, overhaul its creaking administration and reinvent its business model. His biggest task had been to catch up with platform distribution, but the group's late entry into the field paid dividends. The Aegon Retirement Choice platform scooped industry awards and netted £1 billion during its first year, and prompted the creation of 100 new jobs, almost offsetting the net loss of 117 jobs including 22 in Glasgow as it axed regional sales offices.

Martin Gilbert

Scotland's great fund management survivor pulled off his biggest coup yet in the all-share £660 million deal to take Scottish Widows Investment Partnership off the hands of Lloyds. The acquisition puts Aberdeen top of the European fund management league and gives it new firepower in the key US market. Otherwise it could have been a bad year for the man who has chaired FirstGroup for 24 years but announced in May he was quitting, as the transport giant shocked shareholders with a £615m rights issue. The chairman later admitted the group allowed too much debt on its balance sheet before the crunch.

Eddie McDaid

Heart valve makerAortech, co-founded by Eddie McDaid in 1992, appointed him as chief executive for the second time in December to seal a notable business comeback. Mr McDaid had led the company onto the main market where its shares tested 1000p in 2000, but quit in 2002. He rejoined as a non-executive in 2005, and became finance director in 2011 when the company which had left Scotland in 2004 moved from Australia to the US. Aortech was nearly sunk by US patent litigation in 2012, but survived to see its shares rise by over 50% after it signed a deal in October to outsource all its manufacturing.

Gio Benedetti

One of Scotland's best-regarded entrepreneurs, now better known for his daughter Nicola, retired from business after 50 years but went out with a whimper rather than a bang. A few weeks after the announcement was made, it emerged that his final trading business had gone quietly into administration with some unhappy creditors and a pension scheme headed for the Pension Protection Fund. Mr Benedetti admitted that the demise of Wallace Cameron, its renaming before administration, and the sale of its trading business to an English supplier, was "not my best scenario" though insisted he had done everything possible to preserve jobs.

Bill Dobbie

The entrepreneur's leadership of Cupid came to an end when he decided to step down as chief executive at the online dating website in November. It followed a year which saw the group's market value undermined by allegations it used fake messages to attract subscribers. Although an investigation by accountancy firm KPMG cleared Cupid of deliberate wrongdoing the share price slid from 197p in January to just 49p in March and it has so far failed to regain the 60p level it floated at in summer 2010, let alone the 240p high reached in 2011.

Mr Dobbie still owns more than 20% of the shares and remains a non-executive.

Tim O'Toole

The US-born chief executive of FirstGroup reportedly offered his resignation after the board agreed the mammoth £615m rights issue which stunned the market in May and saw the transport giant's share price fall off a cliff.

It was chairman Martin Gilbert who took the rap, admitting that the group had raised too much debt and too little equity on his long watch. But it is Mr O'Toole who is now on the frontline, hoping that his strategy of re-engineering UK Bus and hauling the US operations into shape will run fast enough to pay down the group's still daunting debt, and committing himself to seeing through the turnround.

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