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Our thoughts are with our members and their organisations impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle. Boards have a key role to play in the wake of any crisis. See guidance for chairs and directors

Obituary: Lindsay Fergusson CNZM FInstD

By Sarah Trotman ONZM
3 Mar 2021
read time
4 min to read
Lindsay Fergusson receiving

Lindsay Fergusson receiving his CNZM for services to governance. Pictured with her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy

By Sarah Trotman, ONZM, CEO Business Mentors New Zealand. Sarah was  the funeral celebrant at Lindsay's celebration of life.

People know Lindsay Fergusson as larger than life. His influence, generosity and stories always rippled beyond any room he entered and stretched across nations. Now, his impact continues to reach far into the future.

Lindsay passed away peacefully, aged 80, on Thursday, 11 February 2021. He was the much-loved husband of Lynne and proud father of Mary and Angus. He was the older brother of Faith, Nadine and Graham.

Lindsay’s grandchildren adored him: Tomas, James and George in Auckland, and Lewis, Ella May and Finlay in London. To Angus' wife Salimata, he was a super father-in-law.

I was privileged to be the funeral celebrant at Lindsay’s Celebration of Life.

Energy and drive

In the 1980s, there was a marketing campaign about the energy and drive of 'your Mobil Man'. They must have been thinking about Lindsay Fergusson! In his 26 year career at Mobil, he held senior positions in strategic planning and management in Mobil’s international operations around the globe.

Among his appointments with Mobil were Director in the United Kingdom; Chief Executive in Malaysia, Greece and New Zealand; and Manager of International Planning at Mobil's US world headquarters.

He became Managing Director of Mobil Oil New Zealand from 1984 to 1986, during the financing and construction phases of the Motonui gas to gasoline plant at Waitara. He was able to see through intricacies and complexity with clarity.

A visionary for a better future

Intellectual curiosity kept Linsday at the leading edge of innovation decade after decade.

He always saw a place to thrive not only by seizing opportunities but by creating them. When combined with his legendary generosity and public-spiritedness, he made an impact that will remain for generations to come.

Mr Fergusson was invested in several New Zealand technology-based start-up companies and led many others to success throughout his career and professional life. Industry disrupters Terrabyte Interactive, iiNet Australia and Ecodiesel, were just a few.

Wise counsel

Lindsay could always find a clear path to bring together what was economically desirable and technologically feasible so people could flourish. It gave everyone around him a sense of total reassurance.

He earned a degree in law from Victoria University of Wellington and then completed senior management programs at Columbia and Harvard Universities in the United States.

He was a Life Fellow of the NZ Institute of Management and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors in NZ.

As Chair of Business Mentors New Zealand in the early 2000s, he was active with Sir James Fletcher in building a Trust that continues to support thousands of business leaders with their own journeys.

A champion for New Zealand

Lindsay prioritised success for New Zealand as a prospering, world-class destination. He had a talent for balancing technical, commercial and human considerations. Lindsay led major international and national commercial negotiations with a confident and assured hand.

As a governing board member, Mr Fergusson ensured the success of pivotal projects such as the New Zealand Synthetic Fuels Corporation gas to gasoline plant and the completion of New Zealand Steel's major expansion. On-time and under-budget, of course!

He was Chair of the New Zealand Expo 1992. He headed the organisation that received the Whitbread Round the World Yacht race into Auckland. He was founding Chair of the America's Cup Village, the venue for America's Cup 2000. He was a founder, former Chair and CEO of Virtual Spectator Group.

He contributed to regional New Zealand too. Mr Fergusson was CEO of Auckland Trotting Club and Director of Tauranga Civic Holdings.

Services to Governance

In 2017, Linsday Fergusson's services to governance were recognised by the Queen. He was appointed as a Companion New Zealand Order of Merit. At his investiture by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, he was acknowledged for his contribution as Director of the Reserve Bank for two terms, as well as of the New Zealand Forestry Corporation, the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, and Deputy Chair of North Health.

In the late 1980s, he was Managing Director of New Zealand Steel and Magnum Corporation. Later, he was chair of the Auckland Institute of Technology Foundation and was involved in AUT gaining University status.

As former National President of the New Zealand Institute of Management, he helped give New Zealand business a way to keep lifting its capability.

A first-class raconteur

Lindsay's professional dedication didn't stop him from embracing life to the fullest in every sense. He enthralled people with his stories and friends found he rarely met a chardonnay he didn't like. Lindsay delighted in all life had to offer and inspired those around him to do the same.

You’ll hear many of those who worked with him explain how he found them exciting new roles. What stands out is that he helped people achieve their own dreams even when it left him shorthanded. Furthermore, he’d stay in touch and supportive, often building friendships over decades. It was rare in the world, but typical of Lindsay.

Lindsay’s early days were spent working hard and playing hard through school at Naenae College. Although he always had his eyes set on new horizons, it never prevented him from remaining grounded. Importantly, he always valued what was most precious in life – especially those close to him.

Lynn was his lifelong love. Her grace and dedication ensured that together, the two were greater than the sum of themselves as individuals. Throughout their life together, Lynn’s commitment to Lindsay has always shone. She visited him twice a day, every day for the 8 months he was in the Elizabeth Knox Home and Hospital. It shows a lot about both of them.

Worked to change society

Lindsay Fergusson wasn’t content with his own success; he wanted everyone to have the opportunity and freedom to pursue their dreams. He dedicated himself to changing life in New Zealand for the better through the National Party and more actively through ACT.

In 1998, he challenged the establishment with an outsider’s campaign to become National Party President. It was closer than some had expected and was enough to force a floor vote which came down to a tiny margin.

In 2011, he volunteered to help the ACT party. For six years, he was a driving force behind the party’s new energy. Others in his shoes may have been tempted to relax around the golf course, but Lindsay remained as dedicated and hardworking as ever.

He remains larger than life

Lindsay was larger than life in every moment he shared with us. Now we can see his life was larger than ever. He achieved more, gave more and was loved more than seems possible for a single man. He had strong views, immense impact and powerful influence.

Lindsay made things happen, and they were the right things. The impetus of his impact is not slowing down any time soon.