The former Air New Zealand and ASB Bank CEO was awarded the top honour this evening at a black tie VIP awards ceremony, held at the Viaduct Events Centre on Auckland’s waterfront.
Sir Ralph, who is currently the chairman of both Contact Energy and Fletcher Building, led the revival of Air New Zealand following a government bailout of the airline in 2001.
Starting his career in banking, he spent a decade as CEO of ASB and later ran the bank’s Australian parent company, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), making him one of the most influential business leaders on both sides of the Tasman.
Kea Global CEO Craig Donaldson says Sir Ralph is a globally respected business leader who has contributed immensely to New Zealand and its business community.
“Sir Ralph Norris piloted Air New Zealand through a period of turbulence and transformed it into one of the world’s most successful airlines. His successful leadership at CBA, one of the world’s largest banks, proved he is a world-class CEO,” Donaldson says.
“Sir Ralph is one of many Kiwi businesspeople here and overseas supporting up-and-coming businesses. Kea is proud to facilitate these connections through the World Class New Zealand Network and Kea Connect.”
The World Class New Zealand Awards are New Zealand’s top individual achievement awards and are presented annually by Kea.
Each World Class New Zealand Award winner receives a Tall Poppy statuette designed by Weta Workshop co-founder and 2009 Supreme Award winner Sir Richard Taylor.
As well as the Supreme Award winner, the ceremony awarded four World Class New Zealand Award winners and one Friend of New Zealand Award winner.
The other World Class New Zealand Award winners were businesswomen Linda Jenkinson and Sarah Robb O’Hagan, leading winemaker Peter Yealands and Ngai Tahu leader Sir Mark Solomon.
Linda Jenkinson is an entrepreneur who founded a number of businesses including John Paul, a global travel concierge provider to the world’s largest brands. She is a director of Air New Zealand and was the first New Zealand woman to list a company on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
Sarah Robb O’Hagan is an executive, activist and entrepreneur who has been recognised as one of Fast Company’s ’Most Creative People in Business’. She has had leadership roles at iconic global brands including Virgin, Nike, Gatorade, and global fitness company Equinox.
Peter Yealands is the owner and founder of Yealands Estate wines, one of New Zealand’s biggest wine companies, based in the Awatere Valley in Marlborough. He is a marine farming industry pioneer who went on to establish one of New Zealand’s most successful deer farms and planted the award-winning Marlborough Sounds forestry estate.
Sir Mark Solomon is the elected Kaiwhakahaere (Chair) of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, a position he has held since 1998. His current directorships include Te Ohu Kaimoana, Te Pookai Aronui, Te Tapuae o Rehua, and the Advisory Board on CERA Transition. He is a trustee of Pure Advantage and a member of the NZ China Council.
The Awards also saw New York-born businessman Matteo De Nora honoured with the Friend of New Zealand Award for his services to New Zealand. Known for his support of Emirates, Team New Zealand, De Nora is an honorary member of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and is a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.