Mainfreight co-founder Neil Graham dies

The NBR Rich Lister was a "larger than life character" as well as an investor in startups and a philanthroper.

Mainfreight co-founder and startup backer Neil Graham, 71, has died. He had been in ill health for some time, stepping down from his directorship of Mainfreight in 2001.

He was in this year’s NBR Rich List with a net worth of $100 million. 

In recent years, Mr Graham invested in a number of hospitality, livestock, tourism, property and forestry ventures.

One was, a short-lived rival to online auction site TradeMe.

He was also known for his philanthropy – donating gorillas to Christchurch’s Orana Park and public artworks such as Martin Creed's neon creation for the Christchurch Art Gallery.

In a tribute, Mainfreight says it has "lost an integral connection with its past but, more than that, a staunch and true supporter – a special member of our family.”

"We know that there are many, many Mainfreight team members throughout the world who will have memories of Neil – he was a character who was larger than life, and everyone who met him will have a story to share."

Mr Graham joined Bruce Plested in 1979 to take over the running of fledgling trucking business Mainfreight. The company grew steadily to become the country's largest freight forwarder with a value of $1.5 billion.

He was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2013 and was the proud owner of an Aston Martin One-77 supercar.

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