NZ Festival: The Boy From Island Bay Saturday 5 January, 9.45pm
Tonight’s NZ Festival sees the story of how a lonely boy from Island Bay went on to become one of the most powerful men in Australian and New Zealand business – and how his own staff then plotted his downfall.
The Boy From Island Bay follows the story of Sir Ron Brierley (tonight at 9.45pm on TV ONE). In the 1960s, after a short career as a horse racing tipster, Brierley became New Zealand’s first takeover whiz. Often skating close to the law, he attracted investments from thousands of “mum and pop” New Zealanders to build a company which by the mid 1970s was worth today’s equivalent of close to one billion dollars. By the end of the 1980s sharemarket boom, Brierley Investments Ltd was worth $12 billion in today’s money, with hundreds of thousands of New Zealand investors.
Sir Ron became a household name. More than 5000 shareholders attended the company’s annual meeting in 1987. What they didn’t know was that behind the scenes, Sir Ron’s colleagues were plotting his downfall. Three years later they succeeded and drove him from his own company, leaving a legacy of bitterness that continues to this day.
Brierley blames the man who succeeded him for his downfall, but his successor says that under Sir Ron, the company was out of control in the late 80s and Sir Ron couldn’t see that. Sir Ron Brierley now lives in Sydney where he runs his second investment company, Guiness Peat Group.
The Boy From Island Bay sees interviews with a number of people from Sir Ron’s past, including former schoolmates; cricket colleagues; a former girlfriend; business allies and rivals; and his friends today. The picture they paint is that of an eccentric loner, obsessed with numbers and figures, yet paradoxically not really interested in money. A close friend of Brierley, Wellington businessman Sir Roberts Jones, describes him as weird – a man who once wanted to read a book but refused to buy it because he didn’t know what he would do with it when he had finished it.
He doesn’t like spontaneity and his diary is planned weeks ahead. He dislikes disorder so much he keeps the same hotel suite permanently booked in London.
Sir Robert Jones says, contrary to rumour, Sir Ron Brierley likes women but has never married because he is too selfish.
Sir Ron Brierley attributes his success down to hard work – and a healthy bit of luck.
The Boy from Island Bay follows Sir Ron from his school days at Wellington College through to his life today as a bachelor multi-millionaire Sydney businessman.