Sir Angus Tait – Flying Kiwi 2003
Born in Oamaru and his interest in electronics started there. After leaving school to work in a local radio store, he later served with the RAF during World War II, and it was at this time he met his wife to be, Hazel.
After the war, following a short spell as an itinerant candid street photographer, he went into business designing and building electronic products, including TVs, stereos and, of course, mobile radio equipment. Eventually focusing only on radio, A. M. Tait Ltd produced some great technology but the business had little understanding of effective sales and marketing and eventually went into receivership in 1967.
Angus was a passenger on the Wahine, and after escaping the wreck with his suitcase of samples, he still turned up to his presentation the next day at the New Zealand Post Office. However, he didn't win the deal, and shortly after, his business hit the wall. He managed to survive and work through receivership and a new company, Tait Electronics, started in 1969. Angus was asked then by his bank manager (having mortgaged his house at the age of 50) if he was going to make the same mistakes again, to which he replied, "No, I'm going to make entirely new ones." As Tait grew, so did Angus's own reputation. He was never keen on the limelight yet he was never backward in coming forward if something needed saying.
He wasn't overly motivated by the trappings of wealth either but did enjoy some toys, in particular aeroplanes and sports cars. A tale that can now be told was that he would memorise eye charts before being tested for his pilot's licence, and it also seems he was not always the most co-operative with flight control.
The real essence of Angus can be summarised in two words: people and generosity. After his first business failure, Angus realised he needed people who could complement his own skills, and he believed strongly in the power of teamwork. Yet he didn't hold onto people so tight that he couldn't let go. If an employee came to him saying they were off to start their own venture he would encourage and support them.
This generosity also spilled over to his support of the community and the industry. He refused to sell the business despite large offers in the 1980s. The Tait Foundation donated millions of dollars over the years to a variety of causes; most recently to Canterbury University's Wireless Research Centre.
Michael Chick, Tait's former CEO, said: "Angus was an immensely determined yet compassionate man, a great innovator and mentor for so many. He was humble and curious; never seeking the limelight but never shy of making his voice heard if it would help business and education in New Zealand."
Simply put, Angus was a great Kiwi, whose example will always live on and serve as an enduring inspiration to all of us. His optimism was boundless and each year, when he would announce the firm's annual results, he would always say "the best is yet to come."