This profile is part of the FT’s 2010 Women at the Top ranking of 50 prominent businesswomen around the world.

31. Ilene Gordon, 57

Nationality: American

Company: Corn Products International

Sector: Agribusiness

Location: US

Three-year TSR: -30%

An MIT-trained mathematician, Ilene Gordon has run Corn Products International, a 100-year-old US company, since 2009 but has a long history of senior management positions at other companies.

With an accountant father, she was heading to be a teacher when, just before graduation, she enrolled for an MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management. It was a good move: her business career flourished from the start.

After 17 years at Tenneco Packaging, a folding-carton business, she stayed in the industry, moving to Pechiney in 1999, becoming the first president of its plastics company and then senior vice-president of the group. When it was acquired by Alcan Aluminium, the Canadian group, Gordon went too, heading up Alcan Food Packaging Americas, before her promotion to chief executive and president of Alcan Packaging. When the company was acquired by Rio Tinto in October 2007 she then became president and chief executive of Rio Tinto’s Alcan packaging business, serving the food, beauty, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries.

As chairman and chief executive of Corn Products, Gordon heads one of the US’s largest ingredient providers, refining corn and producing starches and sweeteners used in food and drinks, pharmaceuticals, animal feeds and even IV drips.

Gordon revisited the company’s past in October this year with the acquisition of rival National Starch from Akzo-Nobel – which Corn Products had sold in 1920.

Speaking to the FT in June, she said the $1.4bn deal would transform the company into a global ingredients producer with $5bn in annual revenue.

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