no change 1 Charles Wilson Chief executive Booker



The man who was once Sir Stuart Rose's right-hand man is now a force to be reckoned with in his own right. He earns his second top spot in a row for his ability to read the market, his willingness to take risks and his achievement in getting Booker back on a sound financial footing, all of which have driven Booker's ongoing renaissance under his command.

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last year: 6 2 Chris Etherington CEO Palmer & Harvey McLane



Poised to enter his third year at the helm of the UK's biggest wholesaler, Chris Etherington rises to second place from sixth thanks to the ambitious initiatives implemented following an 18-month review of the business. Arguably the boldest move was scrapping P&H's one-size-fits-all approach to wholesaling and tailoring its offer to retailers' formats. As well as acquiring wholesalers T&A Symonds and WH & HM Young, Etherington also led a £298m MBO of the company.

last year: 2 3 Younus Sheikh MD Bestway



He may have slipped down The Sunday Times Rich List while boss Anwar Pervez climbed, but it has been another strong year for the Bestway MD, who is still worth a cool £113m, according to the list. As well as pulling off a 23.9% increase in pre-tax profit to £39.9m, the highly regarded Bestway MD has also played a leading role in the FWD's campaigning work, but though he helped convince the government to get tough on duty fraud, his efforts were not so well rewarded when it came to his influence over the Competition Commission's groceries inquiry. There was relief in the Batleys camp as Bestway opened the first Batleys depot in south-east England last October, signalling its intention to preserve a separate identity for the business it bought in 2005.

no change 4 Fred Barnes Chief executive 3663 First for Foodservice



The sheer size of 3663 once generated negative press and unfavourable comparisons to the big supermarkets. Not any more.

Last autumn, Barnes responded to criticism of the group's environmental impact by launching 3663's First For Sustainability policy, under which the company now assesses the environmental impact of every decision it makes, from which trucks to buy to which carpet to choose at its High Wycombe head office.

Barnes has also steered a sound business course, winning high-profile contracts from rivals including Woodward Foodservice.

last year: 7 5 Chris Martin CEO Musgrave Group



Musgrave's UK arm has undergone a major management shake-up over the past year, driven by Martin. The ever-astute CEO has enlisted the help of former executives from Tesco, Marks & Spencer, The Co-operative Group and Camelot to help strengthen the supply chains of its two UK fascias, Budgens and Londis.

Last July, the Cork-based group snapped up Northern Irish wholesaler J&J Haslett, doubling the number of stores it supplied in the province in one fell swoop.

last year: 10 6 Peter Blakemore Chairman AF Blakemore



As well as being the Spar wholesaler for the Midlands, he also runs leading independent chain Tates and a successful cash & carry operation. But having fingers in so many pies hasn't proved a problem.

He jumps to sixth place in this year's chart for opening Axcess10, a new 65,000 sq ft warehouse off junction 10 on the M6, and the launch of Heart Distribution, an innovative partnership with supplier group Heart of England Fine Foods to distribute Midlands-produced foods. Rivals are thought to be considering similar initiatives.

new entry 7 Francis Ball Chairman, Federation of Wholesale Distributors



Ball may split his time between the FWD and other business interests, but in the past couple of years he has emerged as a figure of some authority and imagination.

The charismatic former Costco boss earned his inclusion in the list by playing a key role behind the scenes in delivering FWD's greatest success to date: convincing the government to tighten up the law relating to duty fraud.

He followed this up in April with a rousing speech at the FWD conference calling on wholesalers to take control of and grow the sector.

new entry 8 Frank McKay Chief executive Brakes Group



Last June McKay steered Brakes to its second triumph in three years as The Grocer's wholesaler of the year. McKay wins his place in the list for the way he has embraced the environmental agenda, helping the business reduce its carbon emissions by using vehicles fuelled by bio-diesel.

However, the group took on a significant chunk of debt last autumn and rivals claim it is still struggling to deal with issues surrounding the move.

last year: 3 9 Rodney Hunt MD Today's Group



Hunt has driven strong growth in the wholesale arm of Nisa-Today's, but was forced to admit at Christmas that a buying alliance with cash & carry giant Makro was not proving as successful as hoped, hence the slip down this year's ranking. New depot openings and refurbishments this year should deliver strong numbers, however.

last year: 5 10 Steve Parfett MD Parfetts Cash & Carry



The outspoken Parfett has never been afraid to take on suppliers he feels are not giving the indies as good a deal as they give the multiples - not to mention the mults themselves. Now, in what looks to be his exit strategy from the sector, Parfett is restructuring the £407m-a-year business, passing ownership to his staff. He is expected to remain at the helm for another five years.top wholesaler Charles Wilson, Booker

Enjoying his second year at the top of our wholesaler list, Charles Wilson is the man everyone else would like to emulate.

Always one step ahead of the game, Sir Stuart Rose's former right-hand man at Booker and M&S has skilfully transformed the business back into the wholesale super-power it once was.

Last week, it reported a 27% increase in pre-tax profit to £36.2m in the year to 28 March on sales up 2.3% to £3.1bn.

What has really impressed, though, is Wilson's development of the delivered and online side of its business. When Booker acquired Blueheath last May, many in the sector warned that independents were not yet ready for online sales and that developing a full sales offer was too much of a risk.

Wilson remained unfazed. The first sign he had pulled it off came at the end of last year when Booker beat rival P&H to the contract to supply CTN-specialist Rippleglen, months before Wilson had expected to land its first major delivered contract win. And last week's figures confirmed the acquisition had been a good move. Booker reported that it had doubled web-based sales from £44m to £109m, prompting an ever-bullish Wilson to announce this was "just the start".

Blueheath is one of many achievements, however. The introduction of the Euroshopper economy range to help independents compete with the discounters and the multiples also proved a hit, not to mention being pretty prescient given today's economic climate. And the development of affordable pre-packed fresh meat and fruit and vegetable ranges provided another draw for retailers who are constantly being told to improve their fresh offer.

There are challenges ahead. Sales to retailers have fallen 1.5% in the wake of last year's smoking ban. But if anyone can steer Booker through, Wilson can.

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