Meet the hard-working country girl who became an investment banker and is now acting CEO of RM Williams at the age of 29 after a 15-second interview with Australia’s richest man
- Michelle Hepworth, 29, made acting CEO of iconic fashion brand RM Williams
- Ms Hepworth has been in the top role at the fashion label for past six months
- She revealed her rise to the top was based on a 15-second sliding doors moment
A 29-year-old country girl is now the acting CEO of one of Australia’s most iconic clothing and footwear brands RM Williams.
Michelle Hepworth has been overseeing the multi-million dollar company for the last six months after former boss Raju Vuppalapati resigned from the role.
On Monday, she will hand over the reins to former Nike executive Paul Grosmann.
Her short time at the top has been nothing short of incredible for a country girl who grew up in a grain and sheep farming town called Northam, 100 kilometres north-east of Perth.
Ms Hepworth revealed that rising to CEO was made possible by a 15-second encounter between her and the owner of the company.
Michelle Hepworth has been overseeing the multi-million dollar company for the last six months after former boss Raju Vuppalapati resigned from the role
Ms Hepworth’s short time at the top has been nothing short of incredible for a country girl who grew up in a grain and sheep farming town called Northam, 100 kilometres south-east of Perth
RM Williams was bought by Tattarang for $190million in October 2020.
The private company is owned by Nicola Forrest and her mining tycoon husband Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, who is Australia’s richest man with a combined net worth of approximately A$27.25 billion
Ms Hepworth revealed that she while was being interviewed to join the company in 2019 she had only met Mr Forrest for 15 seconds.
It was a brief sliding doors moment that put her on a trajectory to become the CEO of RM Williams two years later.
‘He always jokes that it was his only 15-second interview,’ Ms Hepworth told Australian Financial Review. ‘He poked his head in [the door] and that was it.’
Ms Hepworth described herself as an active person who always participated in sports such as netball and tennis when she was growing up in rural WA.
RM Williams was a big part of the country girl’s life with Ms Hepworth’s father a big fan of the boots.
Her first taste of the outside world came when Ms Hepworth moved out of home as a teenager to attend St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School in Karrinyup, Perth.
Ms Hepworth had secured a scholarship to the prestigious and exclusive boarding school after she was encouraged to apply for it by her parents.
Little did she know her experience at the school would pave the way for her meteoric rise through the business industry.
A social studies teacher suggested Ms Hepworth take on an economics course in Year 10.
Ms Hepworth built on her high school learning of economics when she pursued a law and economics degree at the University of Western Australia.
RM Williams was a big part of the country girl’s life with Ms Hepworth’s father a big fan of the boots
A close friend suggested Ms Hepworth delve into investment banking before the economic enthusiast landed an internship at Citi in Sydney.
Ms Hepworth was offered a full-time position and she remained in the NSW capital for the next two years.
Eventually the young investment whizz was felt her home state calling her back and she returned to Western Australia.
Tattarang’s chief investment officer John Hartman approached Ms Hepworth to work at the private company one year later.
Ms Hepworth said the incoming CEO was the perfect fit for the business.
‘Having the opportunity for the last six months to fulfil Andrew and Nicola’s vision has been such a privilege,’ she said.
‘Ultimately, we want a CEO who is tried and tested, and I think that’s what we’ve got.’