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Mainfreight chairman and founder Bruce Plested has been given the Shareholders Association's annual Beacon Award.

The award, presented to Plested yesterday in Auckland, recognises outstanding performance.

Past winners have included former Fletcher Building chief executive Ralph Waters, Guinness Peat Group's Tony Gibbs, Brook Asset Management's Simon Botherway, Herald columnist and Milford Asset Management executive director Brian Gaynor and ex-Telecom chairman Roderick Deane.

Among factors in the association's decision were leadership on corporate practice and behaviour that is respectful and treats the smallest shareholder with the respect of a business owner.

Chairman Bruce Sheppard said Plested was someone who favoured commonsense and simplicity over puffery.

"He is a man who leads from the front in his business and doesn't expect anyone to do that which he is not prepared to do or has done himself.

"He isn't afraid of running at tandem to the pack, so he won't follow a herd if it doesn't make sense to him, and he did a few things in the last 12 months that indicated a willingness to do this, such as harpooning the idiocy of IFRS [International Financial Reporting Standards] and writing a plain English report to shareholders.

"He understands company culture and has integrity and solid values - many do I might add - but he's combined all of the above in a manner that has created an enduring and wonderful business."

Plested founded Mainfreight in 1978 with $2700 in paid up capital and a 1969 Bedford truck.

It was listed in 1996 and today has 3200 staff and 169 branches spread throughout New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Asia.