Sir Ron is reduced to Ron: asset-stripper strips himself of his knighthood before the PM gets around to it

Firefighters have been honoured while an asset stripper has been dishonoured – he dishonoured himself, actually – in the past 24 hours.  

The dishonouring involved Ron Brierley, once a famous name in business and cricketing circles in the the capital city, who didn’t wait for the PM to strip him of his knighthood.  He has written to the Clerk of the Executive Council to tender his resignation as a Knight Bachelor.

The Queen has been informed. We imagine she was not amused, if Brierley happened to provide her with the explanation behind his decision to become plain Ron instead of Sir Ron.

News of this was announced on International Firefighters Day, an event which triggered a statement from Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti.

She mixed her admiration for firefighters with some braying about spending some of the government’s Covid-19 funding on building fire stations:

The fire stations came first:

With two fire stations already complete, and building underway on 16 fire stations around the country, today we celebrate International Firefighters’ Day for the important role firefighters have in keeping communities across the country safe,

The work is progressing due to Government funding through the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to rebuild or upgrade 26 fire stations earlier than anticipated.

 Then she honoured the firefighters:

“Today we thank our firefighters, and the friends and whānau who support them, for their generous gift of dedicated service,” Jan Tinetti said.

“Being a volunteer often means missing family events or having to leave work to respond to calls for help, so I’d also like to thank your families, employers and others who support you and enable you to do what you do.

“Our 14,000 career and volunteer firefighters and support personnel do an outstanding job keeping our communities safe – they responded to nearly 83,359 incidents last year, a four percent increase on the year before.”

And:

“Firefighting is about so much more than just fighting fires. Firefighters respond to a whole range of emergencies in our communities including motor vehicle accidents, medical emergencies, hazardous substances, severe weather events and natural disasters. Our firefighters are there when we need them the most,” Jan Tinetti said. 

There have been three other statements since Point of Order last reported on the bulletins from the Beehive.

  • Lyttleton writer Ben Brown (Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Paoa) will be New Zealand’s first Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador, promoting the value of reading for children and young people.  This will require him to build on existing National Library and in-school initiatives to encourage children to read for pleasure – like Reading Together, Writers in Schools, and the Pacific Early Literacy Programme.
  • The Government announced the next tranche of He Poutama Rangatahi programmes, intended to help “at-risk rangatahi” overcome barriers to employment, education or training. Funding is being provided for four programmes that aim to support rangatahi with driver license and work experience, digital skills and support with documentations for employment. The four programmes are Te Ara Poutama in Tairāwhiti/Gisborne, the School of Hard Knocks in the Bay of Plenty and Life Talk and Mauri Mahi, Mauri Ora, both in Tai Tokerau/Northland.
  • The Government’ has issued its Workforce Policy Statement, which sets out its expectations for pay and employment relations in the Public Sector.  This spells out that pay restraint must continue across the Public Service for the next three years.

Restraint of another sort is in the offing for Ron Brierley.

On the matter of his demotion to plain “mister” (he will be lucky to be called that if he finishes up in jail), the PM says that last month she initiated the process to remove his Knighthood.

The Clerk of the Executive Council wrote to him on 6 April 2021 on behalf of the Prime Minister, giving him 30 days in which to provide any information that he considered relevant before the Prime Minister made her decision.

Ron Brierley may no longer use the title “Sir”, and he has been asked to return his insignia.

The reasons were not given.   The PM presumably was confident we all knew that Brierley was in disgrace after his arrest and appearance in the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney.

Last month he pleaded guilty to three charges of possessing child sex abuse material with 14 charges withdrawn.

Brierley’s barrister admitted he possessed “some images” but the exact figure is “in dispute”.

Cricket Wellington at that time said Brierley’s life membership will be reviewed.

He is a former Patron of Cricket Wellington and a current Life Member.

Brierley was one of the best known New Zealanders of the 1980s and 1990s and the company he founded, Brierley Investments Ltd (BIL), was New Zealand’s most influential company throughout much of that period.

It was New Zealand’s largest listed company with a market value of $7.7 billion in 1986 but when it disappeared from the NZX in 2014 its value had shrunk to  around $1.4 billion.

Finance writer Brian Gaynor wrote then:

The 1970s and early 1980s was the ideal period for Ron Brierley because most New Zealand companies were asset rich but earnings poor and there were no effective takeover or insider trading regulations.

A clear majority of NZX companies owned all of their operating properties and these assets had cost-based balance sheet values, rather than market-based. This represented a fantastic opportunity for corporate raiders who would sell these undervalued assets for substantial, one-off, profits.

Control of these companies could be easily obtained because there were no effective takeover rules while brokers and investment bankers were falling over backwards to do business with BIL.

In an earlier article, written for his Milford clients, Gaynor credited Brierley with being extremely successful with his asset stripping, downsizing and cost cutting strategies in the 1970s and 1980s.

Trouble was, many businesspeople had copied this approach rather than going for growth.

This explained why domestic investors at that time were enthusiastic about Xero and a number of other technology businesses with high-growth aspirations.

Latest from the Beehive

5 MAY 2021

Government sets pay and workforce expectations for the Public Sector

4 MAY 2021

Author Ben Brown is New Zealand’s first Te Awhi Rito Reading Ambassador

Celebrating New Zealand’s firefighters this International Firefighters’ day

Ron Brierley knighthood to go

Employment boost for rural communities

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