Photo: The Hollywood Reporter
A single hire can turn around an organisation.Game-changer hires include product visionaries, a whistleblower CEO, campaign wizards, outstanding coaches and more. Many started in the middle of the recession and were able to lead their organisation into the recovery.
Our list includes hires from the past three years with a proven positive impact.
Click here to see the game-changers >
Abby Rogers, Gus Lubin, Kim Bhasin, Tony Manfred, Aimee Groth and Julie Zeveloff contributed to this list.
Since taking the lead of the automaker in 2010, Akerson has eliminated nearly 30 internal boards and committees to speed up the company's decision-making process.
After the government launched an investigation into the Chevy Volt, Akerson and his cadre of executives took the unusual step of offering affected customers free loaner cars for the duration of the investigation.
The company posted full-year top line results of $150.3 billion in 2011, an 11 per cent gain over the previous year.
Allen had previously worked for big brands like Dunkin' doughnuts, Pepsi, Sony, and Frito-Lay before coming to Denny's to head up its marketing in July 2010.
Denny's stayed strong during a tough economy, and Allen's marketing strategy played no small part. She refocused the Denny's image to appeal to customers as a diner rather than a full-service restaurant.
Allen also added a value proposition for diners with the $2-4-6-8 menu and marketed the brand's every day affordability aggressively, which has been a big success during the economic downturn.
Campaign Chairman, Campaign Manager, Ron Paul 2012 Campaign
Smart tactics by Benton and Tate kept underdog Ron Paul in the GOP race longer than most people expected.
In caucus states, the tightly organised campaign is pursuing a patient strategy that may allow them to win delegates even without winning the initial votes.
They've also led an impressive voter drive. When the GOP called off polling in early February in Maine's Washington County, Tate fired back, claiming the party was scared that Paul would win.
Head Coach, Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers were in NBA purgatory before Collins arrived before the 2010-11 season. They weren't bad enough to start from scratch. But they weren't good enough to legitimately compete for a title.
But in his two seasons as head coach, Collins has taken the third-youngest team in the NBA and made them a viable contender.
Without the superstars of teams like the Knicks and Celtics, Collins decided to focus on defence and depth. The Sixers have improved from 23rd in the league in defensive efficiency before he arrived, to 1st in the league this year. They also have eight players averaging eight points or more, making them one of the deeper teams in the league.
The team currently sits at first place in the Atlanta Division.
Twitter had a big year under Costolo, who moved from the job of COO to the CEO's office in October 2010.
Under his watch, the company moved to a new headquarters, relaunched its iPhone app, and started to figure out a new business model.
In December, Twitter announced it was unveiling a self-service ad product, reminiscent of Google and Facebook. Through the ad system, small and medium-sized businesses can run Promoted Products campaigns in an effort to engage Twitter users.
General Merchandise Manager for Beauty and Personal Care, Walgreens
As part of the transformation, in January Walgreens opened a flagship store on Chicago's Loop. The 27,000-square-foot store boasts manicures and a sushi chef, and the company is reportedly looking at Border's bookstore spaces around the country for additional flagship stores.
New York drugstore Duane Reade, which Walgreens bought in 2010 for nearly $1.1 billion, is also getting a face lift. The brand recently opened a flagship store on Wall Street that boasts sushi, upscale beauty products and a live stock ticker tape.
Diamond rose to prominence when he scored the deal of the century on Lehman Brothers assets, giving Barclays a foothold in investment banking.
Since becoming CEO in January, 2011, he helped Barclays outperform other British banks during a tumultuous period.
Diamond also impressed people with his 'no jerks rule,' which lead him to fire up to 40 bankers for being obnoxious.
Vice President -- Advertising, Facebook
The social networking giant poached Everson from Microsoft, one of Facebook's biggest partners, in February 2011.
Prior to Everson jumping ship to Facebook, Zuckerberg's company had a pretty rocky relationship with advertisers on Madison Avenue.
Since taking over the head advertising position, Everson has been wooing the biggest brands and top agencies, working on improving the newly-public company's relations with advertisers.
Editor, Thomson Reuters Digital
Ever since Stephen Adler joined Thomson Reuters as Editor-In-Chief, the company has been on a hiring spree, poaching some of the top financial journalism talent in the world to compete more fiercely with Bloomberg.
Freeland has brought a lot more visibility to the Reuters brand by bringing political and financial industry heavyweights into its video programs and as guest columnists. She's also been working the TV circuit and moderating panels all over the world, while regularly writing a column for Reuters.
She's already made Reuters a more accessible online brand, and has been aggressively working with Adler to recruit more enviable talent.
CEO, JC Penney
JC Penney made a huge statement by hiring former Apple retail genius Ron Johnson to revive its brand.
Although Johnson has only been on board since November 2011, he's announced sweeping changes in the company's strategy, and brought on top talent from his former employers, including Michael Francis from Target.
JC Penney already launched its new 3-level pricing strategy, which eliminates perpetual discounts to restore brand integrity, and is rolling out new store layouts beginning next fall. It's all part of an ambitious plan to create a sexier brand that can compete more formidably with both discount giants like Target and specialty stores by 2015.
Johnson is a visionary, but he's got his work cut out for him.
Product Manager, Facebook
The social networking king acquired Lessin and his former company Drop.io in October 2010.
In the past year, Lessin headed up the team that created Facebook's Timeline, the company's biggest redesign. Timeline transformed Facebook from a passive 'wall' into a platform for blogging about your life.
Executive Vice President of the Americas Region, Yahoo
Yahoo hired Levinsohn in October of 2010. A former VC and News Corp. guy, it was Levinsohn who convinced News Corp to buy MySpace.
He has achieved quite a feat at Yahoo, getting the company to define itself, finally, as a 'premier digital media company.'
And in November, he spearheaded Yahoo's purchase of ad network Interclick. According to AllThingsD's Peter Kafka, the purchase will allow Yahoo to use Interclick's technology and relationships to help sell inventory.
President and Executive Creative Director, J. Crew Group, Inc.
She was named president and executive creative director of the company in July 2010.
J. Crew's 'Jenna's Picks' branding campaign has become so popular the company now releases it 14 times per year, and Lyons has worked closely with CEO Mickey Drexler to make the company relevant again.
Under her watch, the preppy brand has become a favourite of Michelle Obama and her daughters.
Campaign Manager, Obama 2012 Campaign
Messina is spearheading a very organised, very efficient campaign. This time around, the Obama team has raised more money in less time than they did in 2008, and the campaign boasts more employees.
At the start of the year, the campaign had 200 employees housed in its Chicago headquarters.
By comparison, GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney doesn't have half of that.
That army of employees includes an in-house design team and an in-house tech team.
When The Daily Beast reporter Andrew Romano toured the campaign's Chicago office in January, he witnessed 'an intricate machine.'
Editorial Director, The Hollywood Reporter
Min left US Weekly to take over the failing industry insider magazine in 2010.
She turned the publication into a large-format glossy weekly, relegated breaking news to the website and instituted printing longer profiles about Hollywood.
Her changes appear to be working. In May, The New York Times' David Carr reported that web traffic for the Hollywood Reporter grew to 4.5 million unique visitors per month between April 2010 and April 2011.
Circulation for the weekly grew to more than 70,000 and ad revenue was up 50 per cent.
President, The Blaze
The Blaze has since been dubbed one of the most valuable blogs in America and in October 2011, it was valued at $24 million.
In November, Yahoo! partnered with The Blaze to ramp up its election coverage.
The move hasn't always been easy on Morgan. Click here to watch Morgan talk about what it's like to be a pariah at her job >
Old Spice commercial talent
Former football player Isaiah Mustafa made his commercial debut during the 2010 Super Bowl, when the cologne company aired 'The Man Your Man Could Smell Like' commercial.
Mustafa's catch phrase 'I'm on a horse,' has yielded millions of online views and caused Old Spice to run nearly 190 videos where Mustafa responds to consumer queries.
After the first commercial aired, sales of Old Spice Body Wash rose 11 per cent in 2010.
Since his promotion in July 2010, Oberhelman has quickly become one of America's most influential CEOs.
The Illinois-native caused an uproar in spring of 2011 when he criticised Illinois' business environment and threatened to move Caterpillar's headquarters to another state. The state has offered an R&D credit, but it may take more than that to satisfy Oberhelman.
Executive Director of Paid Products, The New York Times
Perpich, the nephew of The New York Times' publishers Arthur Sulzberger Jr., was hired in March 2010.
And the hire paid off. Perpich is the man behind the controversial yet successful New York Times paywall. Despite concern that readers would flee once they were forced to pay, digital subscriptions are holding strong and physical copy sales are also doing well.
Head Coach, Detroit Lions
In his three seasons as coach of the Lions, Schwartz has increased his team's win total from 2 to 6 to 10. That's no small task for a franchise that's been one of the worst in sports since the middle of the last century.
Beyond wins, Schwartz has successfully changed the culture in Detroit, and imprinted his team with a tough-nosed attitude that's sometimes criticised as 'dirty.'
Since taking the top spot, Smith has rapidly worked to transform the aggregator into a news site with original content, focusing heavily on 2012 election coverage.
Chief Digital Officer, New York City
As the city's first digital officer, Sterne is responsible for New York's digital development. She nabbed the job in January 2011.
Sterne developed NYC Digital, which aimed to improve every New Yorker's digital experience with city government. Part of the initiative was the NYC OpenData API platform, which supplied hundreds of public data sets produced by city agencies.
Her team also hosted the city's first hackathon, Reinvent NYC.gov. She used the hackathon to bring together the city's top technologists and ask them how they thought New York should improve its digital presence.
More than 100 New Yorkers participated
Head Coach, Chicago Bulls
The Bulls had lots of talent but weren't able to put the pieces together until Thibodeau was hired before the 2010-11 season.
Thibodeau had never been an NBA head coach before, so Chicago owner Jerry Reinsdorf took a bit of a gamble on him. But the gamble paid off last year, when the Bulls had the NBA's best record and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Thibodeau has preached toughness and discipline. Whereas most NBA teams take nights off throughout a gruelling 82-game season, the Bulls play hard in every game. As a result, they won the most games in the NBA last year.
'He wants discipline. And he forces discipline,' star point guard Derrick Rose told ESPN. 'You got to love it.'
CEO, Hewlett Packard
Whitman nabbed the top spot at the struggling tech company in September 2011.
HP was rattled by the sudden exit of former CEO Mark Hurd and Whitman has been trying to restore order ever since.
Upon becoming CEO, Whitman abandoned the company's plan to sell off its PC business. She and executive chairman Ray Lane are working to restore board and consumer confidence in the company.
Former President and CEO, Olympus
Woodford had a very short and very impressive tenure at the helm of Olympus.
Promoted to president in February 2011 and CEO in September 2011, the British executive led a fearless investigation into a series of dubious acquisitions. When he blew the whistle on a $1.5 billion accounting fraud, he was fired and forced to leave Japan in a matter of hours.
Woodford was named the Businessperson of the year by the Sunday Times, the Independent and The Sun.
Chief Strategy Officer; Head Coach, San Francisco 49ers
The pair were hired in the spring of 2011 and have turned the team around.
Yu, a former venture capitalist and chief financial officer for Facebook and YouTube, was hired to help the team reach its financing goals in its effort to construct a new stadium, Gerry Shih with The Bay Citizen reported at the time.
For his part, Harbaugh has turned the losing team around. The 49ers went 13-3 in 2011, a record season, and had a 7-1 start under Harbaugh, Jeffri Chadiha reported for ESPN.com.
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