Eagle flies to new premises as company pushes 40

Corallie Eagle, who plans to remain active as chairwoman, talks about what has made Eagle Technology a local success

Eagle Technology, one of the great survivors of the New Zealand information technology market, has recently moved to new Wellington premises, after 17 years in Eagle Technology House, in Willis Street.

The company was set up by the late Trevor Eagle, in 1969. Eagle’s wife, Corallie, who has been an integral part of the business from day one, recalls the company began by selling disks and tapes, and running a small bureau, International Data Ltd. “We also sold the first ATM in New Zealand, to Databank,” she says.

But it was when it became an agency for Data General that it really got up and running. Eagle sold 40 DG mid-range boxes into Databank. But that success could also have led to the company’s demise.

“Data General decided to come into New Zealand in its own right,” Corallie Eagle says. “Trevor didn’t know what to do. But we got a phone call from a friend who told us an agency was available for Prime Computer and we got that.

“Prime was very successful. We disconnected the last one just two years ago, at AB McNair.”

There’s a slight irony in the fact that Eagle continues to thrive while both Data General and Prime no longer exist.

Early in the 1980s, Eagle Technology took on the agency for GIS specialist ESRI. It was early days for a technology that didn’t really gain much traction until the desktop became ubiquitous. In those days, it needed to run on huge systems.

“It’s now the jewel in our crown,” Eagle says. The GIS products interface nicely with the Sun reseller agency the company also operates, because GIS is now moving back to a server base.

Eagle Technology — perhaps driven by the Data General experience — has always had a broad range of products. “If we hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be sitting here today,” Eagle says. “We’ve always had clever and adaptable engineers who could work across the range of products.”

The company also has agencies for Business Objects and SAP Business One, and represents most of the major brands as a systems integrator.

Trevor Eagle collapsed and died on Saturday, December 9, 2000, while swimming off his boat, Virtual Reality.

“I went into work at 8.30am on Monday and haven’t left the premises since,” Eagle says. “I’d always looked after the facilities, and I knew the suppliers and had a good knowledge of the people in the company and in the industry.

“My first concern was: ‘How am I going to feed 160 families?’ The support from the staff was tremendous.”

The couple’s son, Craig, had earlier given notice that he wanted to move on, to establish his own business, but he stayed on for two years as chief executive. Corallie subsequently took over the CEO role.

“Trevor used to say that networking was so important,” she says. “So, I continued to go to the business breakfast meetings he used to attend.”

At one of those meetings, she was impressed with the speaker, Gary Langford, who was then at Trade and Enterprise. She approached him and offered him a place on the Eagle board.

Langford was the former group general manager of Anchor Marketing, at the New Zealand Dairy Group, and was responsible for establishing Investment New Zealand for Trade New Zealand.

“I had a lot to do with the IT community in those roles,” he says.

He joined the company five years ago next month and subsequently resigned his board position to take up the CEO role.

Corallie Eagle is chairman of the board and shows no sign of retiring. “If I did, I’d get bored and depressed. The business is extremely stimulating.”

She describes the past four years as a time of consolidation.

Corallie’s son, Duane, is also very involved in the running of Eagle Technology, in his roles as director of sales and business development manager. Duane has been part of Eagle Technology since 1991 and so has a very sound knowledge of the IT industry. Duane also runs Corallie’s boat-charter company.

When she’s not hands-on at Eagle Technology, Corallie enjoys time with family and pursues her interest in horse racing. Eagle Technology has been a sponsor of the Eagle Technology Counties Cup for 21 years and Corallie continues to race thoroughbreds.

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