Former Vodafone NZ boss Grahame Maher dead at 51

Grahame Maher

A service for Grahame Maher, the driving force behind Vodafone's early years in New Zealand, will be held at the Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide today.

Mr Maher (51) died on Monday in Qatar, where he was chief executive of the local Vodafone operation. 

The Qatar Tribune reported that Mr Maher (pictured) suffered a stroke on Friday October 29.

Chief Financial Officer John Tombleson, who is now the acting chief executive officer, told reporters that Maher was rushed to Al Ahli Hospital on Friday and was kept in the intensive care unit (ICU) for observation.

“On Saturday, Maher was shifted out from the ICU and was recovering well," Mr Tombleson said.

"The doctors, in fact, said it was a mild attack and that he could be discharged from the hospital on Monday.” 

However, Mr Maher passed away in his sleep the same day.

Asked if Maher was suffering from any other medical condition, Mr Tombleson said Maher was a healthy person who devoted time to fitness activities.

“On the days he was not working, Grahame preferred to walk rather than ride his motorbike; he loved long-distance running."

However, there did appear to be a family history, with reports Mr Maher's father died of a stroke around the same age.

For many Mr Maher's death will be a sad echo of that of Datacom group chief executive Michael Browne, who was recently claimed by a heart attack at just 47, while mountain biking.

Mr Maher grew up in South Australia, and his body was flown to Adelaide for the service today.

Vodafone New Zealand country manager Russell Stanners has flown to Australia for the funeral.

Inspirational leader
Mr Maher became marketing director of Vodafone NZ in November 1998, soon after the company bought BellSouth's NZ operation.  At the turn of the millennium, he was promoted to succeed founding chief executive John Rohan.

In September 2001, Mr Maher left to become chief executive of Vodafone Australia.

During his three years at the helm of Vodafone NZ, the mobile carrier lifted its market share from 16% to 53%.

Mr Maher went on to become chief executive of Vodafone Sweden, and chairman and chief executive of Vodafone Czech Republic before taking his Quatar role in 2008.

In his obituary, Mr Maher's colleagues remember an "inspiration leader"; his family a man "who crammed 100 years of life into just 51."

He is survived by his wife Jenny Maher, and his daughters Jessica and Kate, both in their twenties.

Messages after NBR's original story on Grahame Maher's passing included:

Everyone who worked at Vodafone NZ during Grahame's time has very fond memories of an electric working environment where we believed anything was possible - matched by equally outrageous parties led by Grahame's cross dressing genius and that face stretching laugh.

But most of all he was down to earth and humble - coming into the call centre during major problems and offering to help-out, remembering everyone's name and asking you how things were going.

An Aussie Larrikin in the best sense of the tradition who was also adopted in NZ. It is very sad to think he won't be visiting these shores again  - Lucky


He absolutely believed that people were a companies most valuable asset and treated everyone, regardless of position, with equal value. He drove a culture that just cant be manufactured. It came from his heart and that was clear to everyone. His ready sense of fun was absolutely infectious and his passing is a great loss for everyone who has been lucky enough to know him. RIP Grahame - Susannah

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Why is it that sometimes it seems only to "good" die young... As those who knew Grahame in this life remember him as a good and decent man, his Creator will also remeber him and reward him for a life well lived.

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commiserationz to his family :-(

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He was a good bloke even when he was just a copier salesman.
He took his passion to the top.
He will be sadly missed.

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Grahame was absolutely authentic both as a unique leader and as a human being. I'll always remember him zooming around the office on his jet propelled scooter - health & safety - what the hell!

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Grahame, you were a good friend, we had much in common from bakeries to mobile business to distance running, and philosophy in life. You will also be missed from my company board of advisors, but more as a person I highly respected and loved to be with.

I'm sad that we wont be able to run side by side in another marathon for that 3'33" time, nor chat about life & biz over beers. You are a great guy Grahame.

Little did I know that the last time I was to see you was when I drove you to the airport :(
You lived 100 years in your 51 mate ! May you rest in peace until our paths cross once again, even though not on earth. Sending you much love from my inner soul.

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