InTouch: Top 200’s 20/20 view

The financial results collated for NZ Management magazine’s Top 200 Companies list in 1990 “indicate another grim year” for New Zealand companies, said the magazine’s editor of the day, Vaughan Yarwood.
Profit lines, and even the number of companies listed on the stock exchange, shrank yet again – carry over from the turmoil of the 1987 share market crash and accompanying recession. Only banks and some large diversified corporates seemed to benefit from the chaos of the times. But 1990 was also the year that NZ Management magazine, supported by sponsorship from global business services company, Deloitte, decided to take the long view and establish the Deloitte/Management magazine Top 200 Awards.
The theme behind that inaugural event was – believe it or not – “global reach”. The magazine’s editorial in that year’s Top 200 issue opined that “only those companies at home in the international marketplace and alive to its beat will survive in the long term”. Twenty years on and we are still beating that similar sounding drum. Now, in 2009 and new millennium, we clock up 20 years of Top 200 Awards.
The awards are still delivered courtesy of the long lasting relationship between NZ Management magazine and Deloitte, our primary sponsor. Other sponsors have joined the family as the size, scope and significance of the event has grown.
To mark 20 fascinating and turbulent years of New Zealand enterprise, we take 20/20 reflective look at what past Top 200 Awards have recorded, and speculate little about the prospects for the next 20 years. We will, over the months running up to the Awards in late November, record the fortunes of past winners, both individual and corporate, and acknowledge their contributions to the New Zealand economy.
The Awards exist now, as then, to encourage managerial excellence. To acknowledge and applaud individual and organisational enterprise and success, and to emphasise just how significant our Top 200 companies are to the well-being of the nation.
In 1990 our Top 200 list, compiled by NZ Management since 1982, was dominated by companies such as Fletcher Challenge, Brierley Investments, Elders Resources, Lion Nathan and Telecom. Things are different now but our rationale for using our Top 200 to identify the best performers among the nation’s largest trading enterprises is pretty similar.
There were only two awards that first year – Company of the Year and Executive of the Year. It provided us with our first, and actually our only, significant judging mistake in 20 years. Douglas Myers, as our Executive of the Year lives on in healthy and successful reality. Our company of the year was the maverick meat company Fortex which, for those too young to remember or with very short memories, collapsed ignominiously. Good to learn the hard lessons early in life. Many of the companies that made up the Top 200 list in 1990 have disappeared or emerged in different guise. We will record some of that in the weeks ahead.

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