A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Morgan’s Magical Madness.

So what do you do when a good investment turns into a NZ$47 million bonus. For Gareth Morgan, you give it all away.

I first came across Gareth not through his philanthropic streak, but his adventurous one. Gareth, his wife Joanna, and a team of others have taken long distance motorbike trips around the world. An Indian journey across the Himalayas; another they entitled ‘Kimchi Kiwi’s’ across Korea; and an epic, retracing the journey of Marco Polo from Venice to Beijing across the Silk Road. Photos and astute commentary are captured on their blog, www.worldbybike.com

Their travels are reminders of the cultural and geographical diversity of the globe, while also the ‘have’ and ‘have nots’ which punctuate it with disparity. So when Gareth’s investment came through, he decided to set up the Morgan Charitable Trust, and seek ways of redistributing his gains.

The money came as a result of the sale of Trade Me (New Zealand’s equivalent of Ebay), which Gareth’s son Sam had set up. At the time when Sam’s business was getting going, Gareth saw the investment potential and placed his bets. The horse came in a winner.

Seeing investment potential is something Gareth himself has made a business of. Trained as an economist, Gareth set up Gareth Morgan Investments, which now has a portfolio of ‘about NZ$1 billion’. He is also a director of Infometrics, an economic forecasting company based in Wellington. Between all that, his bike trips, and being a father to four, grandfather to one, he still has had time to write several books on financial investment including the recent New Zealand bestseller, Pension Panic, which he wrote while on his US bike trip (He packs a PDA, a fold-up keyboard and a satellite phone onto all this trips which make up his mobile office). Between all of that Gareth is a regular contributor to New Zealand’s Dominion Post and Christchurch Press, where his economic rambling are expounded with wit and charisma. He is also a regular voice on radio with dispatches while on his bike trips (including one from Iran when he and fellow travellers were under house arrest!)

Gareth speaks with a slight lisp, a remnant from an early cleft palette, which he says made him a prime bullying target. School was troublesome, grades were weak. It wasn’t until university where his academic focus was found. But by the time he had his PhD in economics from Massey University in Wellington, with a wife and two kids, he wanted a break. His wife Joanna is ‘bus mad’, and so they packed up home into a converted bus and went on the road for three years with a growing family; picking up odd jobs along the way. He was while living in the bus Gareth set up his first business (bus at night, suit by day), convincing investors to back a horse racing guide called Bettor Informed. It eventually failed, but the lessons were there to go on to set up Informetrics, and onwards from there.

Gareth is indeed a busy man. More bike trips are planned for the coming years. More books to be written, and meanwhile, the Morgan Trust will be redistributing the winnings.

(Gareth Morgan was named by North South Magazine as New Zealander of the Year in 2007. You can follow his blog, photos and commentaries on http://www.worldbybike.com
An account of his travels across the Silk Road is published as ‘The Silk Riders’)

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