Douglas Goodfellow, once New Zealand's richest man, dies at 97

Douglas Goodfellow, OBE (Business Hall of Fame)

Businessman and philanthropist William Douglas Goodfellow, OBE, once the richest man in New Zealand, has died at the age of 97.

Douglas, as he was known, was father to National Party president Peter Goodfellow, and Dr Bruce Goodfellow, who continues to run the family business, Amalgamated Dairies.

He topped the NBR Rich List in 1994, but a year later his wealth had been transferred to family trusts.

In 1996, the NZ Listener reported that Mr Douglas gave away $285 million to various charities, the largest gift in New Zealand history at the time. The family has also given generously to education, medical research and aged care programmes.

Presbyterian values of hard work and service to others have been the keys to the Goodfellow family fortune, which the 2013 NBR Rich List estimated at $500,000.

The pattern was established by Sir William Goodfellow when he took the family into the dairy industry in 1909.

He founded the Waikato Dairy Company, which effectively kick-started the New Zealand dairy industry and launched its co-operative model.

From this was born Amalgamated Dairies, which thrived under the leadership of his son Douglas.

He was another self-confessed workaholic, who followed the Presbyterian ethic that knowledge should be used “for the glory of God and the benefit of mankind.”

His family's company diversified into fishing, food and finance, becoming a major shareholder in Sanfords.

He became a generous donor to the St Kentigern Trust, established in 1949 to facilitate the creation of a Presbyterian boys’ college at Pakuranga, Auckland.

He also established and funded a postgraduate chair in general practice at the Auckland Medical School, the Goodfellow Unit offering continuing education to doctors and nurses in primary health care, and the Douglas Goodfellow Scholarship in Engineering.

Today, Amalgamated is run by his son Bruce, who is also imbued with the family’s Presbyterian values. Bruce also took over the chairmanship of the St Kentigern Trust Board from his father who, in turn, had replaced his father, one of the founders of the board.

The family has extensive investments in a variety of companies associated with agribusiness, food, clothing, property, finance, fishing and engineering.

And in line with their faith they have given much of their fortune away.

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