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The Ascent

Stella Donoghue talks kismet, hotel secrets and multiple exits

Season 2, Ep. 9

Kicking off Season Two is Guy’s conversation with super-exiter Stella Donoghue, who, as CEO of Phlexglobal, took the company through three private equity sales in five and a half years, exiting the business herself in 2016.


Stella is one of those leaders who’s lived many different lives in business, starting at age 17 when she won UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year with her own restaurant in Ireland. However, in spite of her success, coming from a prominent family of high-achievers and academics, it wasn’t the route her parents had imagined for her, and marked her out as something of a black sheep, compounded three years later when she sold the restaurant and moved to London to undertake a degree in hotel management and accountancy.


A period at London’s finest hotels culminated in a few high-octane years at Claridge’s, tending to the needs and whims, not just of the super-rich and famous, but potential targets of terrorism, too. However, it was after leaving the heady world of hotels behind to study for an MBA, that Stella found herself – almost by chance, after a random conversation on a treadmill at the gym – landing a role as part-time CFO, and then very quickly full-time CEO, of Phlexglobal. What followed was a period of rapid growth, both at home and internationally, together with big career milestones, giving Stella a deep understanding of private equity, and a raft of invaluable insight and experiences.

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