Sir Eric Neal AC CVO
In his fourteen years as Chief Executive Officer at Boral, the company showed fourteen consecutive and substantial profit increases, and expanded greatly, through acquisitions in Australia and the United States of America, and through improvements in efficiency. When he left Boral, Michael Lawrence wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald: 'the accolades for his management skills and gentle manner seem endless'. Sir Eric was universally respected for being 'the total professional' and for 'having all the old-fashioned qualities'. Himself hard working, knowledgeable and a businessman twenty-four hours a day, he expected his colleagues and employees to be of similar calibre. A Boral subordinate was once surprised to receive a call ordering him on a business mission on the morning of Boxing Day.
His success at Boral earned him many other directorships. He was a director of John Fairfax Ltd between 1987 and 1988, and a director of BHP. Between 1986 and 1988 he held a position on the Bank of Montreal Advisory Council. He was chief commissioner of the City of Sydney from 1987 to 1988, and first National president of the Australian Institute of Company Directors from 1990 to 1992. Sir Eric was appointed to the board of Westpac in 1985, and became Chairman in 1989, holding that position until October 1992. In 1992 he joined the board of AMP.
He was a Chairman of Directors of Metal Manufactures, and of Atlas Copco (Aus) Pty. Ltd, and a Director of Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd.
Sir Eric's contributions to Australian business have received many acknowledgments. He was knighted in 1982 and is a Companion of the Order of Australia. In 1992 he was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. He was the Australian Business Magazine's Businessman of the Year in 1987, and is the holder of the United States Department of Defence Medal for distinguished public service. Among his civic achievements are the chairmanship of the Coral Sea Commemorative Council and the chairmanship of the sixth Commonwealth Study Conference, and chairmanship of the Working Group on Water Resource Policy of the Council of Australian Governments 1993-94.
Sir Eric is a member of several clubs and has been a notable patron of community activities for many years. He has an enduring connection with the theatre, which is a particular love of Lady Neal. His own leisure interests are of a nautical bent, and on his retirement from Boral he acquired a 43-foot yacht, with the stated intention of allowing himself regular marine outings - a promise to himself, which his continuing professional and civic commitments have made hard to keep. A 44-foot motor cruiser based in Adelaide has subsequently replaced this yacht. The walls of a well-stocked study attest to his passion for marine history, and walking in naval shipyards, when his travels take him to their vicinity, is a particular pleasure.
When he became Governor of South Australia in 1996, Sir Eric was the first businessman to be appointed to the vice-regal office. He was admirably qualified to follow the innovatory example of his predecessor, Dame Roma Mitchell, in leading trade delegations to other countries. His first trade mission was undertaken in 1996, to open the South Australian office in the Shan Dong (Shantung) province of China, and he has since undertaken missions to Malaysia, Sweden and the United States of America. Sir Eric believes that the presence of the Governor on these delegations added impressive weight to the missions, and ensured a respectful hearing from the countries visited. As almost a native of South Australia, he enjoyed helping his state by raising sponsors for state events, and by encouraging commercial ties with other countries. He saw his entertainment of visiting commercial identities, and his support of local enterprises, as a large part of the service he can offered to the community as Governor.
Following his retirement as Governor, Sir Eric served for eight years as Chancellor of Flinders University and continues to chair the South Australian Government Road Safety Advisory Council and Veterans Advisory Council.
- Arnold, J. & Morris, D. (eds). (1994). Monash Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth Century Australians. Reed Reference Publishing: Port Melbourne
- Barnes, V.C.D. (1980). South Australian Biographies. Blue Book of South Australia and Biographies Australia
- Frew, W. (1992). Sir Eric Neal to leave Boral after Overseeing its Success. The Financial Review. 30th April
- Hard Men at the Top Ran a Tough Ship. (1999). The Financial Review, 21st Oct
- Herd, M. (1999).Who's Who in Australia 2000, 36th ed. Information Australia
- Laurence, M. (1987). Sir Eric Neal: Tough Dealer with a Smile. Sydney Morning Herald. 4th April
- Kavanagh, J. (1989). Neal Calls for Encouragement Rather than Knocking. Business Review Weekly. 1st Dec
- Sykes, T. (1997). SA's Governor Gets Out and Sells. The Financial Review. 28th Feb
- The Pleasures of a Varied Career. (1989). The Sydney Morning Herald. 5th Sept
Additional information: http://www.library.unisa.edu.au/resources/collections/eric/sirericneal.asp