Hundreds of mourners from across Australia’s business, arts and sporting fraternities gathered in Sydney this afternoon to pay tribute to former Qantas chief executive James Strong.
As a salute to the man known for his signature bow ties, a Qantas A380 superjumbo flew low over Sydney’s CBD from north to south at 1pm.
It was a fitting farewell for one of Australia’s top business figures who was responsible for ordering the next-generation of planes for Qantas early last decade when he was the airline’s CEO.
Shortly afterwards, more than a 1000 mourners turned up at the City Recital Hall in the CBD for a memorial service for one of Australia’s most high-profile businessmen.
Attendees included federal government ministers Simon Crean and Peter Garrett, former Liberal senator Helen Coonan, former Reserve Bank governor Ian Macfarlane and NSW Governor Marie Bashir.
Other senior figures included Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and his predecessor Geoff Dixon, Telstra director Geoffrey Cousins, Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd, former NSW premier Nick Greiner, Leightons chief financial officer Peter Gregg and Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett.
Mr Joyce told the mourners that Mr Strong made the national flag carrier ‘‘ready for the future, uniting the tribes into one cohesive whole .. and leading Qantas through its successful rebirth as a public company’’.
‘‘He was a true gentleman but also a fighter; an opera buff and a rev-head, a mountain climber and a bookworm; a businessman and a dreamer,’’ Mr Joyce said.
‘‘James will be remembered forever as a giant of Australian aviation and of Qantas history.’’
Other speakers at the memorial service included Woolworths boss Grant O’Brien, Future Fund chairman David Gonski and five-time motorcycle world champion Mick Doohan.
Former world motorcycle champion Casey Stoner and his family were also in attendance, as well as Sydney celebrity chief Neil Perry.
Mr Strong, 68, died in Sydney just over a week ago of lung complications from surgery. He leaves behind his wife, Jeanne-Claude, and his sons Nick and Sam.
Born in Lismore in northern NSW, Mr Strong became one of Australia’s top business figures.
Known as ‘‘Mr Bow Tie’’, his near five-decade career spanned multiple industries including aviation, law, retail and insurance. Apart from his role as Qantas CEO, his senior positions included chairman of Woolworths, IAG, Rip Curl and more recently Kathmandu.
He shot to prominence running Australian Airlines in the 1980s, before taking the reins at Qantas in 1993. His eight years in one of the highest-profile corporate jobs in the nation included integrating Australian Airlines into the ‘‘Flying Kangaroo’’, and overseeing the 1995 float of the larger carrier.
Mr Strong was also known for holding a wide range of interests outside the corporate world. He had a keen interest in mountaineering, motorsport, parachuting, whitewater rafting, and the arts.
His interest in the arts resulted in him serving as chairman of the Australia Council for the Arts. He was also a director of Opera Australia, the Sydney Writers Festival and chairman of the Sydney Theatre Company, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and the Australia Business Arts Foundation.
His passion for sport led to the chairmanship of the organising committee for the 2015 Cricket World Cup, and he was a director of the Australian Grand Prix, and recently chairman of V8 Supercars.
Mr Strong was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2006 for his services to business, commerce and the arts.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.