Over the past year, Trevor Eagle had become a familiar figure to the New Zealand public. He served as a ready spokesman for the kind of businesses the country needs more of.
On important issues like the Employment Relations Bill and at key events such as the recent government e-commerce summit, his high profile served to boost technology-based industries that had been given a backseat by a public shy and wary of them.
A pity he won't see the fruits that might come as New Zealand wakes up to the potential he's long seen and for which he's lobbied hard.
For Eagle, this wasn't an opportunistic step into the limelight. It was an advocacy role he'd shouldered for years, giving his time, influence and advice generously to projects that aimed to nurture a more positive climate for technology-based businesses.
He was the first president of ITANZ from 1988 to 1989 and the first IT appointment in 1992 to the government’s Technology for Business Growth (TBG) advisory committee which allocated $4 million a year of R&D funding. He was chair of the current government’s high-tech council.
He brought many innovators the breaks they needed and the chance to prove themselves and their products. With his entrepreneur's understanding of the challenges they faced, he was a tireless promoter of their potential.
Eagle networked widely and enjoyed entertaining. He had the ear of politicians, senior government officials, industry leaders, the media. And he had an easy, open manner that allowed him to mix freely and unpretentiously with all sorts of people.
For hard-bitten journalists with deadlines to meet, Eagle was always good for a straight-shooting quote or two. He called it as he saw it, usually with a mixture of down-to-earth, practical sense and the perspective of someone with a larger vision.
Eagle got his start working for Woolworths in the early sixties then later for IBM. He set up his own business, Eagle Technology, in 1969. Over the years, it's been involved with products as diverse as Data General and Prime minicomputers, Baan, Olivetti banking equipment, Tandem hardware, SGI, Digital Alpha, Hewlett-Packard and GIS and UPS gear. Eagle guided his company through 30 years of often turbulent twists and turns, maintaining its independence and competing successfully with large multinational organisations. Even in the early 1990s Eagle Technology turned over $30m and employed well over 100 people in branches around the company and in Sydney. NBR’s Rich List last year put the then 67-year-old Trevor Eagle's worth at around $25 million.
These days Eagle Technology is a systems integrator and reseller of Sun, HP, ESRI, Cisco, Microsoft, and ERP products, but also does IT training and has building industry and sports information businesses. Eagle's son Craig serves as general manager.
Outside of business, Eagle’s interests extended to sponsorship of rugby, the Counties Racing Club (his keenness for racing may have had a hand in the company’s recent headquarters move to the Alexandra Trotting Club grounds), Auckland harbour swims, the arts and AUT’s commerce faculty. His interest in sport was underpinned by his own sporting achievements, representing New Zealand in backstroke at the 1950 Empire Games. With his wife and business partner Corallie, he supported many charitable causes.
Eagle died suddenly on December 9 while entertaining colleagues on his 18m launch in the Hauraki Gulf. He is survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters.