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BAI Communications farewells Chairman Gerry Moriarty: reflecting on an extraordinary career in communications

After 14 years with BAI Communications, Gerry Moriarty (AM, FTSE, FIEAust, FAICD) has announced his plans to retire as Company Chairman. In this article, we reflect on Gerry’s extraordinary 50-year career in broadcasting and telecommunications.

Growing up in New Plymouth in New Zealand, Gerry described a curiosity for wireless communications from a young age.

“Our next-door neighbour was a ham radio operator. He built a TV set well before television was available in New Zealand. At particular times of the year, we would get excellent reception of Australian television as a result of ionospheric ducting across the Tasman. Consequently, I became interested in making small radio receivers and built my own kit set TV receiver,” he said.

After leaving college, Gerry started work as a technical trainee at the local radio station and completed his technical training with a Certificate of Engineering. He then received a scholarship to Canterbury University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Telecommunications) with first class honours in 1972.

Gerry had quickly made an impression in the industry and spent the next 12 years in various engineering and executive roles at the Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand and Radio New Zealand.

“When I graduated as a young engineer I was involved in the introduction of colour television and the construction of the major new television studio facilities for TVNZ in Wellington. I was then appointed the Head of Engineering for Radio New Zealand at a time when radio studios were being expanded across New Zealand and network automation was being introduced,” he said.

An offer from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in 1984 saw the Moriarty family head to Australia in the midst of the broadcast industry transformation from film to electronic program making and newsgathering, and the introduction of satellite distribution and programme exchange services. Gerry served as both Director Engineering and Property and Assistant Managing Director (Resources) during his time with the ABC and implemented a major rationalisation of the ABC’s accommodation and facilities. He also managed the relationship with the Federal Government and Telecom Australia who jointly provided the ABC’s radio and television transmission services in those days.

Between 1991 and 1993, he was the Managing Director of BCL (now Kordia) and Corporate Director of TVNZ and established BCL in Australia.

In 1993, Gerry commenced a 10-year career with Telstra Corporation Limited, initially responsible for engineering and operations and going on to serve as the Chief Executive Officer of Telstra Multimedia Pty Ltd and Group Managing Director Infrastructure Services and Wholesale.

“When I joined Telstra I led a number of large strategic projects including the rationalisation and digitisation of its core networks, the building of two mobile networks (one GSM and the other CDMA), and the roll out of the HFC cable television network,” he said.

“There were other highlights during this time such as when we were amongst the first in the world to provide cable modem broadband data services on the HFC network. We also set up Telstra Multimedia to begin Telstra’s involvement in content through the Foxtel joint venture with News Corporation and established Telstra’s first ISP.”

In August 2002, Macquarie Bank appointed Gerry as Deputy Chairman of its new communications infrastructure fund, Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group (MCG). He also assumed the role as Chairman of the seed asset of the new fund, Broadcast Australia.

“The role was uniquely matched to my past involvement in broadcast transmission and telecommunication networks. This, coupled with the exciting global opportunity that the fund represented, created a unique career attraction for me,” he said.

Gerry was elevated to Executive Chairman of MCG in December 2002 and was an Executive Director of Macquarie Group from 2003 to December 2008.

After the purchase of Broadcast Australia as the seed asset for the fund, MCG went on to acquire ntl-Broadcast and National Grid Wireless, which were merged to create Arqiva (a UK communications company). The fund also bought Airwave Solutions (the national public safety communications network operator in the UK) and Global Tower Partners in the U.S.

In July 2010 MCG was acquired by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), with Gerry remaining as Chairman of Broadcast Australia.

During his time as Chairman, BAI Communications (as the company is now known), has grown, expanding into Asia, Europe, USA and Canada. The company designs, builds and operates highly available communications networks – broadcast, radio, cellular, Wi-Fi, digital – for customers across the globe.

Group CEO Jim Hassell paid tribute to Gerry’s contribution to the evolution of the BAI business from an Australian broadcast infrastructure business to a global communications company.

“Gerry’s period as chairman has been marked by his deep understanding of the broadcast and wider telecommunications markets and the opportunities they represent, together with a passionate commitment to both staff and customers and a desire to deliver long term value for shareholders,” Mr Hassell said.

Gerry said his retirement from the Board comes at a time when the company is in excellent shape with a very exciting future ahead.,

“We have renewed core contracts with our key customers and established a proven ability to grow our Transit Communications business in global markets,” he noted.

“The industry will always be dynamic and BAI has very good owners, an excellent management team, and most importantly outstanding people who I’ve been proud to be associated with.”

An industry leader

Currently serving as a Senior Communications Industry Adviser with Macquarie Capital, Chairman of BAI Communications and Chairman of Click Energy Group, Gerry is also a Fellow of The Institution of Engineers, Australia, Fellow of The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

He has held numerous Directorships such as Foxtel, Visionstream, IBM-GSA, Arqiva, Airwave Solutions (UK), Reach, NDC, Pacific Access (Directories), The IT-Skills Hubb, The Bionics Institute and Research Australia.

In 1998, Gerry was recognised as Professional Engineer of the Year by the Victorian branch of Engineers Australia and in 2003, he received the Centenary Medal for services to Australian society in industry.

Gerry’s contributions were further recognised at the highest level in 2001, when he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to the information technology and telecommunications sectors and as an advocate for the employment of leading edge technological capacity, to advance Australia’s capability in business and commerce.

Gerry often acknowledges the mentorship he has received from others.

“I am often asked about mentors throughout my career, and I have had the privilege of working with many inspiring people,” he said.

“There are two that stand out above all. Ken Myer, who was Chairman of the ABC at the time of my appointment and in large part, attracted me to come to Australia. Ken was passionate about technology and wanted to restore the ABC’s lost leadership role in the industry.

“The second would be Frank Blount who, as the first CEO of Telstra, taught me a great deal about business strategy, management and staff motivation.”

What next?

Gerry will remain professionally active with continuing advisory work for Macquarie Capital and as Chairman of Click Energy. He is exploring several fresh opportunities and rebalancing his time.

“My wish is to take on a couple of new activities and to spend more time with my wife doing the things we enjoy – developing gardens, growing grapes and being with our children and two granddaughters,” he said.

“I will however very much miss my involvement with BAI and its staff as the business has been an important part of my life for over 30 years.”

BAI will be hosting an invitation-only farewell for Gerry in May 2016 in Sydney.