I never met Doug Myers but in the anti-apartheid movement we battled his father Kenneth Myers in the 1970s and 1980s. Myers was Chair of the Board of South British Insurance – a company happy to reap profits from investments in apartheid South Africa.
Myers senior would pooh-pooh concerns about racism in South Africa when questioned at company AGMs. He’d say things to the effect that the company didn’t necessarily agree with apartheid but business was business…
We were successful with our insurance companies campaign which, after massive disruption to company AGMs and many public protests, ended when New Zealand Insurance and South British Insurance withdrew their investments from South Africa.
20 years later I wrote to his son Doug Myers about another issue where morality and business collided and received a similar response. Morality had no place in business.
Like father like son.
When I heard of Doug Myers death yesterday my first thought was to wonder if he was one of the “highest net wealth individuals” in New Zealand who declared incomes of less than $70,000 a year. (The Inland Revenue Department tells us that half this group don’t pay the top tax rate which comes in at $70,000)
In November 2013, the Herald published an interview with Myers which gave an insight into the idle lives of the super-wealthy:
“And he’s still having fun. He sold his luxury superyacht Senses. That’s freed up time to try other things. This year he’s been in New York with his son, fishing in Alaska, flew to Burgundy with friends to visit vineyards and then down to Tahiti to go fishing with Marlon Brando’s son.”
Across the media Myers is being praised as a business leader and philanthropist yet he made money not through his own efforts but through using his massive inherited wealth to exploit the free-market economic policies he championed, as a leading light in the Business Roundtable, alongside the Labour Party of the 1980s. That wealth he gained was at the expense of middle and low-income New Zealanders who continue to struggle today to provide that triple lining to the pockets of the super wealthy.
The November 2013 interview with Myers finished like this.
“Life’s not fair and you need to accept it and get on with it. And do the best with the hand you’ve been dealt.”
Myers would have said the same thing to African slaves.