Josie Lyon, Protea Hotel Group Finalists: Faiz Nacerodien, Procter & Gamble; Henk Crouse, HSBC (highly commended); Kelebogile (Lele) Modise, Absa Bank; Madeleine Truter, The Pivotal Fund; Rustum Fortune, BeTheChangeLaw

Protea Hotel Group’s Josie Lyon landed the General Counsel of the Year honour, having strived to build the company’s in-house legal department from scratch after it was acquired by Marriott in 2014.

Lyon is no stranger to how Marriott functions – she previously worked there between 2001 and 2007.

The Protea role means providing legal services to 120 hotels across seven African countries. Her first job was to make sure all legal issues were directed through her office, as well as engaging with senior business leaders across the group to build trust.

As the business’s sole lawyer, Lyon provides a range of legal services, from negotiating supply contracts to handling compliance matters. Since starting the job she has introduced a number of key initiatives, such as creating a database of all hotel contracts, introducing a corporate governance platform and establishing a social and ethics committee, which she chairs.

Lyon has also been instrumental in helping Protea integrate within Marriott’s global structure, thanks to her prior experience with the company and her work as legal director at Virgin Active South Africa.