We remember Derek Wakefield

In News by Alisa Evans

Derek Wakefield

(23 Sept 1941 – 18 Jul 2016)

Prior to his retirement in 2011, Derek Wakefield served, at various times, as the Paterson Simons Company Secretary and Managing Director. With Derek’s sad passing last year, we reflect on the tenacity, intelligence and commitment of a true Paterson Simons icon.

Born in North London, England in 1941 Derek was one of three children and went to school at Lordship Lane. At an early age, Derek displayed exceptional mathematical skill and showed a keen interest in this as a career choice.  To achieve this goal, Derek needed to work full time to support his family but also then studied part time and evenings to eventually qualify as a management accountant.

In 1960 he met Carol and they were married in 1963, raising three children, Martin, Jane and Richard.

In 1971, Derek was offered an opportunity to work for Mehari Trading, a Libyan-based subsidiary of the Paterson Simons group specialising in equipment lines such as the Nuffield tractor and Morris and Lancia automobiles.  Derek and Carol spent two fascinating years in Libya, raising their three children. Carol recalls that their time there was a wonderful experience that solidified their love of travel throughout their lives together.

At the time, Paterson Simons was owned by the Woodhall Trust, a subsidiary of Hornibrooke, which was involved in the building of the Sydney Opera House. In the early 1980s the Woodland Trust was bought by Elders IXL, an Australian pastoral company with deep ambitions to widen their global network. At the time Paterson Simons was what many would call an “old school” trading company with an extraordinarily wide array of interests. On any given day, Paterson Simons could be trading (and in some cases even bartering) in skins and hides, tin, oil, cotton, windows, tractors, industrial equipment or turkey tails in regions from West and North Africa to Singapore and the Middle East.

This disparate, cross-cultural and multi-sectoral business model required an extra-ordinary management response; Derek, as Paterson Simons Group Secretary, was legendary in his ability to bridle and run what appeared to be an opaque and convoluted expanse of companies. At one point, he was a board director of over 200 companies!

Despite Elders’s ambitions to leverage the Paterson Simons network for greater global influence, the company did not thrive under corporate control. In 1984, a management buy-out proposal was mooted by Managing Director, Edward Lyne, and the company was bought by the partnership outright. Edward fondly remembers the support and guidance offered by Derek over that demanding period; it is without a doubt that Derek made the resuscitation of the company via the management buy-out not only feasible but also successful.

In the ensuing years Derek made many trips to Ghana to assist with the finer points of managing the business and its accounts, and by the time he retired in 2011, had made key contributions to the company’s upward trajectory.

Derek will always be remembered by the old guard of Paterson Simons as being a man of tremendous resolve, wonderful humour and intelligence, his insight and experience was sorely missed when he retired from the company, and is even more so now that he has passed on.

We will miss him dearly, and take this opportunity to convey our sympathies and condolences to Carol, Martin, Jane, Richard as well as grandchildren Daniel, Jacqueline, Elizabeth, Harrison and Ellie.