William Douglas Goodfellow dies, aged 97

00:05, Jul 12 2014
Douglas Goodfellow
HONEST BROKER: Douglas Goodfellow has died, aged 97.

Businessman and philanthropist William Douglas Goodfellow, once the richest man in New Zealand, has died.

The 97-year-old was father to National Party president Peter Goodfellow, and Bruce Goodfellow, who continues to run the family business.

In 2011 Douglas was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame.

At the time he was still managing his business affairs from the Auckland home he shared with his wife of six decades, Judith.

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

The Goodfellow family fortune was estimated at $500 million on the most recent 2013 Rich List.


While Douglas continued to govern his father Sir William's interests in dairy, refrigeration and clothing, he also carved his own path through the business world.

During the 1960s he brought Lada cars and potash to New Zealand from the Soviet Union, and later helped build seafood company Sanford into the country's second largest fishing operation.

He was a director of New Zealand Insurance, New Zealand Farmers Fertiliser Company (now Nufarm), and was chairman of Sanford for more than 30 years.

Douglas was born in Hamilton in 1917, and went to Fairfield School before shifting to Mt Roskill Primary and Auckland Grammar School.

He spent a year at Auckland Medical School and then joined the Royal Navy and saw World War II action in the Mediterranean Sea.

After the war he worked for Empire Dairies' London office, a partnership between Sir William's Amalgamated Dairies and the Australian Producers' Wholesale Co-operative Federation.

He met his Australian-born wife and they returned to New Zealand in 1951 to marry.

Douglas was well known for supporting educational institutions, including Saint Kentigern School and College in Auckland, where both Bruce and Peter were schooled.

The fingerprint of his "life of service to others" can be seen across the grounds of both the school and college.

Douglas' contributions to education also extended to the tertiary sector, where he funded the Goodfellow unit in the School of Population Health at Auckland University.

He also established a postgraduate chair in general practice at Auckland Medical School and the Richard Maclaurin Goodfellow chair in theology.

Douglas was instrumental in setting up trusts and heading governance for the purposes of medical research and care of the elderly.

The Goodfellow family requested privacy when contacted by Fairfax Media.

In an earlier interview following Douglas' Hall of Fame induction, Bruce said his father's philanthropic drive flowed from his faith.

''Being the Presbyterian Church, which is very much hard work, study and academics, and giving back to society,'' Bruce said.

"When he's involved with charities he gets involved with them personally and gives of his time.''

Bruce said Douglas was relentlessly hard-working, catching the train to work every single day during family holidays in Melbourne.

His father's reputation for commitment and honest business dealings meant the company was well-respected, Bruce said.

"We had a very good profile and reputation out in the market as people to deal with. You needed honesty and integrity in business.''