Off Topic: Colin Goodall

Irish-born and English-raised Committee for Adelaide Chair Colin Goodall landed in Adelaide three years ago after a distinguished career with BP, which saw him posted to far-flung locations across the globe.

Irish-born and English-raised Committee for Adelaide Chair Colin Goodall landed in Adelaide three years ago after a distinguished career with BP, which saw him posted to far-flung locations across the globe. Goodall eventually chose Adelaide as his home after the gas and oil industry veteran connected with the city during one of his annual visits from the northern hemisphere to visit his daughter, who lived in New Zealand. “I’ve probably spent more of my life globetrotting than I have sitting in one place, which is how we got here,” Goodall explains. “Everybody asks me, ‘Why did you come to Adelaide?’ It’s really easy to answer: it’s a lovely place. We were living in Spain, I retired from BP and I had done some other things – we built a small independent oil company in the UK and sold it to the Koreans for $4billion – so I had done that. I thought, ‘Okay, what I am going to do next?’ Our daughter was in New Zealand, so we flew through Australia every year. Sydney’s okay but I couldn’t live there. We came through here and stayed in town, visited Kangaroo Island and the Southern Ocean Lodge and went up the Murray River and to the Flinders Ranges and I thought, ‘This place is good’.” Now settled in Adelaide with his wife (Goodall’s daughter also moved here from New Zealand), Goodall is the Chair of Committee for Adelaide, an a-political not-for-profit collective that aims to ‘drive capital and community growth and investment in South Australia’. Though he is not a ‘true local’, Goodall brings a lifetime of experience working in countries such as Iran, Russia, Scotland, the United States and various countries in Africa. He was BP Europe’s Chief Financial Officer and BP’s senior representative in Russia. “My last job for BP, after a couple of years in Europe, was running Russia, which I took on against my better judgement. I was sent out there in 98. That was the tail end of the Yeltsin regime. We’d taken up an investment in a Russian company. We bought 10 percent of this company and they sent three of us in to run it. We think that it employed 76,000 people but we’re not too sure. We had farms, refineries, gas stations, prisons – pretty well everything.” Goodall calls his Russian experience “difficult but interesting”. He traveled with two bodyguards by his side and had to deal with Russia’s tax police. “I suspect the Australian tax inspectors don’t wear black ski masks and carry Kalashnikovs, as the tax police in Russia do. These guys come into your office and say, ‘You owe us some tax’. It was interesting. “When the three of us were sent in, we would have our meetings with the management of the company and agree on things and we’d go back home on a Saturday afternoon. The following Monday nothing had happened. So we realised after we had our meetings they’d have their meetings and completely ignore everything. “The CEO at the time was a Chechen and I worked out fairly quickly that a large amount of money was going missing. On a trip back to London I arranged that he would leave the company. What I didn’t realise was that the chief accountant, most of the legal team and all of the traders were his relatives. I used to meet him periodically after that and he’d say, ‘Now, Colin were you responsible for me being fired?’ It was a pretty challenging environment.” Goodall experienced Russia’s evolution away from its former communist rule. He recruited Russian ex-pats who had been educated in Europe and the US and says there was a generation gap between the older generation who grew up during Soviet rule and their children who wanted a “different life”. “The younger generation was almost as alien to their elders as estranged people. We lived in a flat in a nice area of Moscow with a beautiful lake just opposite. The building I was in was the most fantastic piece of art-nouveau architecture. This was the house of the famous Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein. If it had been on Hyde Park in London it would have been worth gazillions.” Goodall was in Iran from 75 to 79 and took the last commercial flight out of Iran before the Iranian Revolution. “I left when the Shah left. I was on the plane before him. One of the fun things about oil is it tends to be found in places that are different. I say to many people that oil is as much about politics as it is about geology. It tends to be found in places where the politics aren’t easy. “I got involved with the theatre in Iran. We held a number of theatre productions in a theatre – a hut – that held 86 people on a full night. We did the world premiere of Evita. We had the LP and transcribed it. One of the ladies, who had been a dancer, her husband was a pilot, she choreographed it and we performed it. We broke every copyright rule in the book,” he laughs. “You make your own life in those places.”

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