Craig Norgate, former Fonterra CEO, dies in UK

Dairy giant's inaugural chief executive dead at 50.   Duncan Bridgeman and Jacqueline Rowarth talk about the death of Craig Norgate on NBR Radio and on demand on MyNBR Radio.

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Craig Norgate, the inaugural chief executive of Fonterra Cooperative Group when it was formed from the merger of Kiwi Cooperative Dairies, NZ Cooperative Dairy Co and the NZ Dairy Board, has died in London after collapsing unexpectedly.

He was 50 years old.

His son Jordan Norgate, who lives in London, told media, "My mother Jane, sister Alexandria and brother Dylan and I loved him very much, he had a heart of gold and he will be dearly missed."

Fonterra's official social media account posted at 9.11pm this evening, "Sad to hear of passing of Craig Norgate, our first CEO who cared passionately about dairy and NZ agriculture. Our thoughts are with his family."

NBR columnist Matthew Hooton – a former head of communications for Fonterra – worked with Mr Norgate on the dairy industry mega-merger and the first year of Fonterra.

“He was the brightest person you’ll ever meet - way, way off the chart, both in terms of being intellectually smart and also street-smart," Mr Hooton says.

"His vision was for Fonterra to be a nimble, fleet-footed fast-moving international company, led by a small corporate centre of just 50 people. 

"Sadly, we can only imagine how much better off dairy farmers and New Zealand would be had he been allowed to execute that, rather than see Fonterra become the lumbering monolith it defaulted to, after the board decided it wanted less aggressive leadership.”

Mr Norgate ran New Zealand's biggest dairy company for two years and then teamed up with the McConnon family to form Rural Portfolio Investments, which acquired a controlling stake in rural services group Wrightson, merging it with Pyne Gould Guinness in 2005 to form PGG Wrightson.

He was instrumental in the creation of NZ Farming Systems Uruguay, which aimed to repeat Fonterra's success by developing dairy farms in South America using New Zealand farming techniques.

His grand vision faltered in 2008, when Wrightson was caught by the credit squeeze from the global financial crisis in 2008 and was unable to settle an unconditional offer to buy a half stake in Silver Fern Farms for $220 million.

Most recently he had responsibility for overseeing the merger of Chartered Accountants Australia with its New Zealand counterpart. He didn't front for the current lawsuit taken against the accounting body by rival CPA Australia.

Mr Norgate was also a director of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (2000-2002), on the Taranaki Rugby Football Union (2004 to 2013) and a director and investor in The Chiefs (2013 until his death).

Just a month ago he wrote an open letter for the Taranaki Daily News titled The Chiefs belong in Taranaki.

He is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.

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