Officer of the NZ Order of Merit, for services to agribusiness.

It wasn't until he was 53 and unemployed that Philip Yates - today named as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit - started his own business.

A relative of Arthur Yates, who began the seed firm which bears his name in 1883, Philip had worked at the family company since he was 17.

In 1973 he took over as chief executive and managing director of Yates, but after investment bank Equiticorp gained control of the company in 1985, Philip and other long-term employees were soon axed.

Four years later Yates New Zealand was brought down in the Equiticorp collapse and placed into receivership after 102 continuous years of profitable trading.


Faced with the "sobering experience" of being middle-aged and out of work, Yates saw starting a new firm as the only thing to do.

"Nothing so concentrates the mind like the hangman's noose! My mind was necessarily focused at the time. I needed a new job and income," Yates, now 80, wrote on his website.

Keeping with his family's trade, Yates formed Genetic Technologies in 1986, aiming to build up the Pioneer seed brand in New Zealand.

The company has spent the past two decades growing maize acreage in New Zealand, which Yates said had created new opportunities for the country's maize growers, dairymen and other livestock producers.

Genetic Technologies remains a 100 per cent New Zealand-owned Yates family seed business, with the management team now run by Philip's son, William.

Yates remains chairman of the firm.