View Full Version : James Strong dies

Southern handler
3rd Mar 2013, 10:24
James Strong died in hospital today

3rd Mar 2013, 11:24
Former Qantas director James Strong dies - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-03-03/former-qantas-director-james-strong-dies/4550590)

Former Qantas director James Strong dies
Updated 37 minutes ago

MAP: Melbourne 3000
One of Australia's top business figures, former Qantas boss James Strong, has died.

He was chief executive and managing director of Qantas from 1993 until 2001 and a former chairman of the Australia Council for the Arts.

Mr Strong also held senior roles with Woolworths, Rip Curl, IAG and Kathmandu.

He died on Sunday evening in a Melbourne hospital.

3rd Mar 2013, 19:47
Vale James Strong .Only met him once and seemed decent fellow. Last time I saw him in public he did not look well.

3rd Mar 2013, 21:20
Almost 2/3 of a lifetime ago I used to fly James Strong around out of Gove; usually across the Gulf to Weipa, at night in old ARJ, a 402!

I looked forward to those trips as he was always a pleasure to have a chat with and showed a genuine interest in the operation. It made a nice change from medivacs and some of the other customers I regularly had aboard then.....

15 or 20 years later, when he was chief of Qantas he often came up to the flight deck for a chat. We would have a similar conversation, and often disagree on the direction he was taking the company but, unlike some of those who followed him, he was there and he was listening.

There will be many arguments over his Qantas legacy, but I can say I am honestly saddened to hear of his death.

Twin Beech
3rd Mar 2013, 21:58
James Strong never gave reason to seriously question his motives, nor his intent. But I have heard several times an apocryphal story of a comment that he was alleged to have made on a flight deck visit: the story goes that on departure he looked down upon the Qantas complex and offered the rhetorical quiz about how many people worked there. The answer was "about half of them"

I always hoped that story was untrue, because he was the CEO, ffs. If he couldn't fix that, who could?

Anyway, I have never heard of any churlish, or childish, behaviour from him. He approached people from a position of mutual respect, and he won the loyalty of almost everyone at QF in his day.

Back in the day he used to be a fixture at the Phillip Island Moto GP races, riding there with his wife on their own bikes. I silently applauded that as evidence that he embraced the idea that sometimes life can (thankfully) be boiled down to mere sensations. I regret not having spent more time in his presence, engaged in passionate discussion.

I expect that his tenure will be marked as the high water mark of Qantas, just before it became infected by the subsequent two generations of looters masquerading as directors and executives.

To the mods: last night I posted a terse comment about exactly whom death should cut down, in the interestes of fairness. Thanks for deleting it.

On edit: fixed artless para.

3rd Mar 2013, 22:26
Death was from complications from surgery.

Former Qantas chief Strong dies (http://www.smh.com.au/business/former-qantas-chief-strong-dies-20130304-2ff3b.html)

The family of the late James Strong, one of Australia’s top business figures and a former boss of Qantas, have paid tribute to a ‘‘beautiful man’’ who will be ‘‘profoundly missed by many’’.

Mr Strong’s family said he passed away peacefully in Sydney yesterday from lung complications following surgery.

‘‘The family appreciates your thoughts at this difficult time and would like to thank the staff at the Mater Hospital for their care,’’ Mr Strong’s wife, Jeanne-Claude, and his sons Nick and Sam said in a statement.

He was chief executive and managing director of Qantas from 1993 until 2001, chairman of Insurance Australia Group between 2001 and 2010, and, as well as holding senior roles with Woolworths, Rip Curl and Kathmandu, a former chairman of the Australia Council for the Arts.

Mr Strong’s extensive experience saw him appointed chairman of the Australian Institute of Company Directors in November, and remained as a non-executive director of Qantas since 2006.

During his time as chairman of Woolworths for 11 years until November 2012, the supermarket chain’s share price more than tripled in value as annual sales doubled to almost $57 billion.

Mr Strong’s passion for the arts and sport also saw him serve as a director of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and Opera Australia.

In 2006, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to business, commerce and the arts.

At IAG, Mr Strong developed a reputation for unorthodoxy when, as the chairman of the board of the insurance group, he had his fellow board members sign undated resignation letters. But they were apparently never used.

Australian Formula One driver Mark Webber paid tribute to Mr Strong on Twitter last night, writing that he was "sorry to hear the news that James Strong has passed away".

"He was very special towards my junior racing career. Great guy. Will be missed."

V8 Supercars Championship said in a statement today that their chairman "James leaves an indelible mark on the business world in his lifetime of work across corporate Australia as a humble and esteemed businessman".

Mark Scott, the managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, wrote on Twitter that Mr Strong was a "captain of industry, advocate for the arts, adventurer, gentleman, and wonderful bow-ties".

Read more: Former Qantas chief Strong dies (http://www.smh.com.au/business/former-qantas-chief-strong-dies-20130304-2ff3b.html#ixzz2MWQWAYnr)

3rd Mar 2013, 22:44
Ben has some anecdotes in his obituary for Strong.

At one press conference Strong was needled by a reporter pointing out that his former customers were queued up on the footpath from the old low cost carrier demountable terminal to the then Ansett terminal at Sydney Airport to which he retorted “what do you expect us to do, have them arrested”

However I wonder what the last line means.

Strong was an entertaining and insightful and at times uncomfortably rigorous observer of human and corporate behavior. There were moments when he confided very important guiding thoughts and revelations to trusted confidants.
His death does not release us from that trust, yet their force and influence continues.

James Strong was a captain of change in airlines | Plane Talking (http://blogs.crikey.com.au/planetalking/2013/03/04/james-strong-was-a-captain-of-change-in-airlines/)

3rd Mar 2013, 22:55
The only CEO in my time who had the decency to show his face on the hangar floor. Sad news.

Dark Knight
3rd Mar 2013, 23:48
Abels tick
Strong tick
McMahon teetering

Harris in wait
Hawke in wait

4th Mar 2013, 00:00
Met him a couple of times. Very descent guy. Sorry to hear of his passing. May he RIP.

my oleo is extended
4th Mar 2013, 01:12
That's 2 Directors down! One might surmise that good things come in three's???

scam sniffer
4th Mar 2013, 01:27
DK. The Grange comes out for Hawke.

One of a half a dozen people that given a little backbone could have changed the course of events.

Then later on, few seem to give him credit for his role as Dixon's mentor.

Without doubt one of the most influential people in Australian aviation since he joined TAA in te mid 80's. None of it good.


tail wheel
4th Mar 2013, 06:13
I knew Strong at TAA. He was intensely private and I am surprised by his wife's qualifications:

Jeanne-Claude Strong has been described as a woman with her head in the clouds and her feet on the ground. A qualified medical practitioner with a post-graduate diploma in applied finance and investment and a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Philosophy, she is a rational thinker who believes in striking a balance between work and play so that neither gets out of hand.

She established and ran three medical clinics in Melbourne and Sydney, focusing on occupational, sports and preventative medicine and stressing the importance of lifestyle management.

She is a member of the advisory Board of Bluearth, a not for profit organisation which promotes greater physical activity to reduce the incidence of disease and increase well-being.

She is a pilot with a command multi engine instrument rating and has flown her own plane from California to Australia (via Europe, the Middle East and south-east Asia).

Who would have thought that?

Ken Borough
4th Mar 2013, 06:30
The rot at Qantas started with JBT. He engineered appointment as CEO from the Boardroom, ousting one of the most decent men one could meet. Once CEO, he oversaw privatisation that led to a conga-line of highly paid, short term trough dwellers that paved the way for todays's wreck that is Qantas. He inherited a robust company but left it a mess, just as he's supposed to have left TN.

Rumour had it that a certain light aircraft was maintained and stored at the Jet Base at Mascot.

As for JBT's alleged comment about there being only half the QF payroll was working, there are many who'd be asking "how would he know" as he was never seen wandering the corridors of QCA/B/C in the years that he was CEO! :yuk:

Obviously, some think the world of JBT but sometimes all is not what it seems.

Eastwest Loco
4th Mar 2013, 06:40
Having been involved with TN in THOSE days, I am just sitting back, shutting up and notching another chunk out of the Dark Side stick.

Operational crew were a necessary evil, groundhogs were and still are a disposable problem.

I feel a weakening in the Dark Side Luke.

It is a long road without a turning.


Captain Dart
4th Mar 2013, 07:05
So, Turbo-tie has gone. Hopefully the main event will be soon.

4th Mar 2013, 08:13
Wow....bit of a shock....only 68, complications from lungs after surgery? What was the surgery? Never met him, seemed likeable enough, until I understood he was mates with and mentor to GD.....knew of him when the old man was still with TN.......QF IT, still have him listed on their page, which is a bit average.......but IT aren't known to update stuff too quick are they?

Jenna Talia
4th Mar 2013, 08:57
I'm sure his wife owned a Baron that would occasionally be seen in the biz jet parking area at Sydney and possibly in Frank Lowy's hangar.

4th Mar 2013, 09:04
As one of those who didn’t know Mr. Strong well, I know little of his personal characteristics. And thus am unable to comment on the legacy he leaves with his family and friends. Despite that I send sincere best wishes to his family knowing that it is never easy to lose someone close to you personally, whatever their professional background.

Professionally however the situation is different. Mr. Strong sought and built himself a high profile, so those (and there are many) who live with his professional legacy are entitled to evaluate the impact his “high profile” had on the industry.

And it is here where the rose-coloured “don’t speak ill of the dead” glasses need to be taken off, and some hard reality checks applied.

Firstly (and importantly for Qantas today)-there is the enormous and ongoing impact of decisions he either made, presided over, or took part in, to progressively dismantle the critical mass of Qantas by asset sales, route cutbacks, outsourcing, segmenting and progressive introduction of the “divide and conquer” theory of business units and industrial relations. Add to that impact the almost unbelievable decision to turn Qantas’ back on the 777 generation, an era not yet over by a long-shot. Collective impact of all of this? At least a couple of PhD’s worth of effort to estimate that but I think the word “zillions” brings us close.

But the real focus of my mind, as the shadows lengthen for me and my friends, is way further back than his time with Qantas. I don’t want to dwell on this too much. Just to say that there was a time when he had choices about his role in the planning, direction, execution and consequences of the Dispute.

The Road Less Travelled option for Mr Strong was one of conciliation, of principle, of equity, of discussion, compromise and rebuilding. He had that choice available then, despite the intense pressures from the Prime Minister and those behind the Prime Minister. He had the chance to simply say “Enough: thus far and no further”. Yes there would have been pain for him: inner sanctums may have been denied him. Open doors to the inside of the establishment may have slammed shut. For whatever reasons he chose the easier path, the slippery slope so attractive for those who find courage much harder to find than platitudes.

And in taking that path he failed that most basic test of all-he failed to do what was right.

Not what was right for him-he made the right decision there. But what was right for the industry, the future, the employees and indeed the country. He chose a path that involved a significant role, by design or neglect, in the gutting of his own airline and stone by stone the creation of solid rock foundations of divisiveness, ideology, selfishness, intolerance and myopia.

And in doing so, erected signposts toward his time ahead at Qantas, so that the circle did indeed never end.

I do sincerely hope he rests in peace. And that peace will come to his family. But beyond that, I do hope that the structures of toxicity and tragedy he helped (or at very least watched) build will fade, to be replaced by robustness and equity. And if after the chapters of failure have vanished from memory we only remember his good points, then so be it. Everyone deserves to have something worthwhile in their legacy.

Phil A Buster
4th Mar 2013, 12:45
I had the pleasure of working under James Strong's leadership as a young fella at TAA / Australian Airlines in the 1980's as well as meeting him on two occasions. When he started at TAA he made the effort to travel to every port on the network and meet as many staff as possible from all grades within the company. He promised us we would knock Ansett off their number one position which they had always held, and sure enough we did it. He had an amazing knack to get the support of even the most cynical old blokes. I recall an occasion when we were trumping Ansett in the traffic stakes, an old union leader commented "I quite like the little fella with the bow tie". For me, he had a very positive influence on me at a young age and as I've progressed through the ranks over the years to an executive position I still remember James Strong very fondly.

4th Mar 2013, 17:21
I love this quote from the Australian:

"In 1985 he was approached and appointed general manager of the then government-owned Trans-Australian Airlines, having worked as a senior lawyer and an executive and lobbyist in the mining industry. He was typically modest about his credentials. "I didn't know anything about airlines but they convinced me it didn't matter," he later recalled.

Say it all really....:ugh:

4th Mar 2013, 20:53
Says it all really....:ugh:

It certainly does! :mad:

5th Mar 2013, 00:00
ahhh .. .. EWL old son , may others take a leaf: copy the cryptic. . A notch in the dark side stick is strikingly apt. Let's hope that a death notice thread does not end up winding up those disputants who before in these forums flogged the dead horse. (The mods have enough to do without having to drag out the fire hose, again).

John Gunn, who was commissioned by James Strong to write the TAA/Australian Airlines history, when he finished his mammoth researches and was ready to put this magnum opus to bed, found that the former enthusiasm of his recruiter had evaporated. Nor did he receive the timely emoluments he had been led to expect were his due. (i.e. short changed)

What Algie says is not without several grains of truth, for sure. But once again, to get into an historically purposeful, useful debate here on points raised, is a daunting prospect. (i.e. pissing in the wind)

On a lighter note JBT as 'a cordy' at Duntroon got the name 'Notsa'.
(Richard de Crespigny as a RAAF recruit got 'Dis-crepancy'.)

5th Mar 2013, 00:12
http://www.brw.com.au/rf/image/2009-2014/BRW/2013/03/04/Photos/d66635c2-846c-11e2-b216-9c0c9414210e_syd-4y1fi8luabk1j0l7u828--646x363.jpg James Strong’s famous bow tie made its first appearance in the 1980s and he was still wearing it decades later, such as at the Qantas annual general meeting in 1998.

It was in the 1980s that business leader James Strong discovered the power of the bow tie – an idiosyncratic quirk that set him apart in a sea of power suits.
At the time, probably only the occasional lawyer and architect would pair the bow tie with a business suit, signalling to the world that they were not quite as colourless as their colleagues.

Strong was new to the job heading up airline TAA in around 1985 when he came into the office to prepare for a round of media interviews designed to position him in the public’s mind as the new “face” of the company.
“He came into the office and he was wearing a bow tie, and asked us if we thought it would be all right for the interviews,” says public relations doyen Phil Burford, who was head of TAA public relations at the time.
“I don’t know if he had worn one before, but we had never seen him do it,” says Burford, now chairman of the Icon Communications group of companies.
“The TV interview went very well and he started wearing a bow tie for all his media activity. And then he started wearing one all the time.”

TAA later went on to produce a bow tie in the company colours of blue and yellow as a corporate give-away.

The adoption of the bow tie made Strong instantly recognisable to the public, and he was rarely mentioned in the press without a reference to it.
In terms of personal branding, it was a winner – a little like Virgin founder Richard Branson’s beard (and penchant for throwing women into water), Microsoft founder Bill Gates’s cardigans, or the glasses Dick Smith used to wear when he owned the electronic chain of stores.
Burford says his next boss, the then CEO of Nissan Australia, Ivan Deveson, also “worked” his signature braces.
“We would get him to do an interview or presentation with his jacket off and in his braces because he was in manufacturing. It looked like he was an executive in a manufacturing business.
“Using those visual cues works well for senior executives,” Burford says.

James Strong was appointed to the Qantas board in 2006 as a non-executive director, after his time as CEO and managing director between 1993 and 2001.
He was previously appointed to the airline’s board in 1991.

From BRW by Fiona Smith

5th Mar 2013, 05:34
Speaking of Strong as if his death may finally allow the righting of some evil wrongs is a strange course of action.

We can of course allow unions and vested interest groups (pilots included) to have their dream airline but the fact is QAN is a business.

But anyone with half a brain knows that pilots fly, managers manage, baggage handlers handle baggage, cabin crew man cabins and union leaders feather their nests.

Unless we choose to proceed down the US route where airlines and more recently car companies are considered strategic and allowed to act as sheltered workshops for bloated uncompetitive workforces and work practises until insolvent and the Government periodically props them up then pragmatic men of conviction like Strong and those that have followed him are going to have to make hard decisions.

His success in dragging QAN into the modern world has created myriad jobs and opportunites in aviation for reeducated workforces at QAN at Virgin, Tiger and Jetstar and meant that QAN is the only profitable airline in the world exposed to real market forces.

His later success at Woolies, IAG and MotoGp are testament to his acumen.


5th Mar 2013, 09:32
Pardon the presumption , but you appear to come on here, out of the blue, to push a blatently uncompromising pro-company line. A glib recitation of your 'facts of life', where you dismiss the function of unions so scathingly would not endear you to those whogot this website up and running,and today is frequented by men and women in the industry who hold no brief for the bean counters and many of those at the helm.

If others de ign to take you to task for some of your more absurd contentions,
by all means come back and tell us of the hig h regard in which you hold the present upper echelons of management,not to mention the highly esteemed board.

5th Mar 2013, 21:30
Since when do Qantas managers 'manage'?

my oleo is extended
5th Mar 2013, 23:59
Redpanda, spot on!!

They 'manage' to pull big salaries and unjustifiable bonuses, here endeth the story.

6th Mar 2013, 00:20
Oh they "manage" (some barely) but how many display good leadership ?
I think you need both qualities for success in the upper echelons !

6th Mar 2013, 05:08
But anyone with half a brain knows that pilots fly, managers manage, baggage handlers handle baggage, cabin crew man cabins and union leaders feather their nests.Probably not the right thread for this stuff, Mr Strong, love him or hate him was an iconic figure in Australian aviation, he did do a lot of good stuff, and sure, I didn't agree with everything he did but I respected him for his leadership qualities, particularly when he was in control at the old TAA/Australian Airlines days..

I remember those days well, TAA was suffering an image problem with the public in comparison to AN at the time market share wise. Mr Strong did do a good job repairing this image problem, and to his credit he motivated the staff in preparation for the re-branding to Australian Airlines. TAA/Australian Airline went gangbusters clawing back a lot of market share from AN during Mr Strong's tenure. He was a standout manager at this time in my humble opinion.

I think Ben summed it up pretty well in this piece..

James Strong was a captain of change in airlines | Plane Talking (http://blogs.crikey.com.au/planetalking/2013/03/04/james-strong-was-a-captain-of-change-in-airlines/)

No-one in the 1980s in Australia saw the future direction of aviation with more clarity and purpose than James Strong, who has died at 68.
His understanding of the three big drivers of change in that decade was detailed, lucid and sometimes brutal in that he was conscious of what those changes would bring and very clear about resistance to such changes ultimately proving futile.
Those change drivers were US deregulation, (late 70s) the privatization of national carriers (early to mid 80s) and the branded global alliances (the 90s) which of late, have driven some airlines including Qantas, much more toward targeted business partnerships (with Emirates and American Airlines).
Strong, who rebranded TAA as Australian Airlines, and then took control of Qantas after it was merged with Australian and privatized and then listed, had a profound influence over the aviation media of the day, during times when every major and second tier newspaper in Australia had a senior reporter dedicated to reporting every aspect of the industry.
When the first Australian Airlines liveried Boeing 737-300 arrived at the old TAA domestic terminal at Sydney Airport the entire media contingent met Strong each wearing a bow tie, probably the only time James Strong abandoned one of his somber change sermons and burst into laughterhttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/fa/TAA_A300B4_VH-TAD_Eagle_Farm_1988.JPG

6th Mar 2013, 06:52
Dark Knight,werent you ever taught never ever dance on a dead mans grave.

6th Mar 2013, 07:07

Dancing is not what will be happening I can assure you of that!!

Capt Casper
6th Mar 2013, 08:24
My view of it would be that, once, we had three domestic airlines. Ansett, TAA and Compass. James Strong wanted TAA to be premier airline (measured by market share).
To achieve that, he sold the assetts of TAA and turned them into paint, uniforms and advertising - Australian Airlines.
He won 4% of market share and sent the lot broke (Compass was admittedly more complex but the outcome would always have been the same).
The Australian government subsidised the Qantas take over of what was left of TAA (sorry Australian??).
Woolworths? Now thats something for Australians to be proud of isn't it?? Farmers being sent broke. Service stations decimated but arhh the market share!
Unfortunately for us all, Australians that produce anything are seen as tall poppies and decried by government, oppositions, unions and the press, whilst the slick lawyers who manipulate our overly complex system of governance are praised and lauded.
Sadly - James Strong was just another successful lawyer leaving the rest of us poorer
Just my opinion though!!!!!!!

Al E. Vator
8th Mar 2013, 03:38
Yes I too have mixed thoughts about Mr Strong but perhaps now is not the ideal time to air grievances? He certainly shook up entrenched outdated work practices early-on in his airline career but then seemed to revel in it later on by facilitating the disgusting excess that the Dixon's of this world benefited from. Can't reconcile those two issues.

Not sure many engineering apprentices would be quite as unbiased in their views though! It would be ironic (and for his family I certainly hope it doesn't happen) if the A380 that will perform a funeral flypast on Monday was delayed by a technical hitch!

9th Mar 2013, 07:24

Interesting story about the B737-300 at Sydney. Unfortunately the photo caption is an Airbus A300B4 VH-TAD named William Light.

9th Mar 2013, 23:23
Captain Casper

Are you saying that Compass Airlines was a third airline in Australia when TAA was transformed to Australian Airlines? It certainly looks like it and if intentional would appear to be an egregious lie of the type common by some around that era.

Your post superficially has some merit, but at what cost?

9th Mar 2013, 23:28
It seems he and Toomey introduced and proliferated the use of the Cost and Revenue allocation process which has been perfected to this day....He has many business interests including aircraft leasing(surprise, surprise!). He was more employee friendly than this crowd but that is not hard.

10th Mar 2013, 00:03
QAN is the only profitable airline in the world exposed to real market

Total and utter tosh. There are several others, I'll name but one; SIA.

10th Mar 2013, 00:45
So Jimmy Bowtie kicked the bucket. As an ex-TAA driver my heart pumps piss. :{

That primarily leaves the silver bodgie and Kelty by my count. Dark Knight?

10th Mar 2013, 05:32
Don't forget McMahon of AN.

Good riddance to em all.

As an aside did anyone see that interview with Hawke today? He said he "has never hated anyone"........could have fooled me and 1468 other Domestic Pilots back in 1989 mate :ugh::*:=