Multimillionaire Sydney-based businessman Sir Ron Brierley has been a huge force in New Zealand for decades as a corporate takeover specialist and still has some business interests here.
NZ Companies Office records show Ronald Alfred Brierley remains a shareholder in Allied Farmers and Bridge Petroleum. The keen cricket fan is also a director and shareholder in Philcoin Investments and a director of Mercantile NZ.
His address is still given as 2 Bayview Tce in Wellington's Oriental Bay although he lives in a waterfront mansion in Sydney's Point Piper and has been reported as having sold that Wellington home.
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His name was this week back in the news, when the Australian media reported he was arrested at Sydney Airport and charged with alleged possession of child exploitation images.
Until then, his main reputation was for his exploits in the corporate scene, shaking it up in a way no one had done before.
Brierley was born in Wellington in 1937 and went to Island Bay School then Wellington College where he joined a stamp dealers' club or federation, as it was known. It's said his first business was trading stamps, annoying at least some from an early age.
"The headmaster was not best pleased with this entrepreneurial activity," said Yvonne van Dongen, who wrote Brierley's biography, which was not authorised by him, although he did agree to be interviewed for it.
"That boy is using this institution for commercial gain. This has got to stop!" the book said the headmaster roared.
At the same time as the stamp collecting, he began writing a tip sheet or newsletter Stocks and Shares, founded when he was just 19.
His first real business transaction was via R.A. Brierley Investments and for the Otago Farmers Co-Operative Association in July 1961. He saw that business as an attractive target due to its cheapness and unusual legal structure. The young man's offer was rejected but the company was forced to change its policy and its price leapt up.
"If you were buying $1 for 50c, you couldn't be too far off course," Brierley was reported as telling the Herald in 2001.
Brierley Investments was New Zealand's most influential company throughout most of the 1970s and 1980s with one in every 20 New Zealanders owning shares.
The company's primary objective was: "To take over or acquire substantial holdings in certain public companies, both in Australia and New Zealand, with a view to ultimate participation in management and the re-organisation and improvement of their finances. This will apply particularly to 'dead' companies which have considerable assets but low earning capacity due to poor management. The ideal situation is one in which surplus assets can be sold and the funds re-invested for the more useful development of an existing business."
In a 2014 Herald column commentator Brian Gaynor said Brierley got up the noses of the New Zealand business community in the early 1960s but BIL failed to achieve its prospectus forecasts, both in terms of earnings and dividends.
"On this side of the Tasman Brierley was an outcast, shunned by the establishment," Gaynor wrote.
Brierley made numerous attempts to list BIL on the NZX but he was turned down each time. However, Brierley was finally accepted on his seventh application and BIL listed on the NZX on March 2, 1970, on a compliance basis.
Gaynor said the 1970s and early 1980s was the ideal period for Ron Brierley because most New Zealand companies were asset-rich but earnings-poor and there were no effective takeover or insider trading regulations.
"The problem with BIL's strategy was that there was a limited number of 'dead' companies and potential one-off asset sales. There were also more and more BIL lookalikes trying to identify and purchase controlling interests in these companies. BIL was running out of 'dead' company victims and it had to look at growth companies in the mid-1980s. This was a totally different investment style that BIL was less suited to.
"Brierley came unstuck when BIL purchased UK-based Mt Charlotte Hotels, now called Thistle Hotels, and when Guinness Peat Group (GPG), which was founded by Brierley, acquired UK-based Coates. These two 100 per cent acquisitions were outside the traditional 'dead' company expertise of Brierley and his BIL and GPG executive teams."
Former Brierley directors are a line-up of corporate fame themselves, each carrying gongs to their name: Sir Selwyn Cushing, Sir Paul Collins, Sir Roger Douglas and Dame Fran Wilde.
In 2001, Brierley retired as a director of the company he founded. He was chairman of another corporate-raider-come-investment-company, Guinness Peat Group plc (GPG) where he also applied his investment approach.
As recently as 2017, his Mercantile NZ had taken over Wellington Merchants, formerly Kirkcaldie & Stains, the same year he was involved in taking a stake in Christchurch-based retailer Smiths City.
The Herald reported this year that Brierley was retiring, aged 81, in June. He announced that in a statement to the ASX, where his vehicle Mercantile Investment is listed.
"Today I am announcing my imminent retirement as chairman of Mercantile Investment Co. Due to age and health issues, I can no longer give the total commitment to the company which it requires and which shareholders deserve," Brierley said.
'No sense of shame'
Writer van Dongen said this week she knew of his frequent trips to Thailand where he met teenage prostitutes. She wrote the book Brierley: The Man Behind the Corporate Legend, released about 30 years ago.
"It was flagged in the book. There was no sense of shame. There was no 'don't write that'. I am not surprised given that he had a predilection," she told RNZ this week.
Brierley lives at 33 Wunulla Rd and he was this week photographed returning home after being arrested.
Van Dongen said Brierley never complained about what was published.
"Brierley seems completely comfortable with this aspect of his life and showed no signs of embarrassment when teased about his frequent trips to Thailand," the book says. "You know how I like to visit the Buddhist temples', he told me with a knowing smile."
The 82-year-old was arrested at Sydney airport as he was about to board a plane to Fiji and charged with six counts of possessing child abuse material, according to a police statement.
The arrest followed a five-month police investigation, reportedly sparked by an anonymous phone call to Crime Stoppers in August.
"The contents of his laptop and electronic storage devices were reviewed, which are alleged to have contained large amounts of child abuse material," NSW Police said in a statement.
Australian media have reported the charges relate to more than 200,000 images and 512 videos of alleged child abuse, citing senior police sources.