Written by Brand Pretorius, CEO, McCarthy Limited, November 2007
Brian McCarthy joined McCarthy Rodway Limited in 1949 and was appointed Managing Director in 1963. He was Chairman of McCarthy Group Limited and later McCarthy Retail Limited from 1976 to the time of his passing in May 2000. It happens perhaps once or twice in one’s lifetime that one is privileged to meet and get to know a person who makes a really lasting impression. One is even more blessed when such an impression develops into growing respect and admiration. This only happens when the person concerned is a human being of exceptional quality. Such a person was Brian McCarthy, or “BC” as he was fondly known.
I met him for the first time in 1977 and he impressed me greatly with his business acumen, deep insight into the motor industry and his fair and ethical approach to business. Over the years, I came to know him as a person of the highest integrity who was always consistent and always fair. He exemplified principled leadership and based his business philosophy on sound values. Brian undoubtedly shaped the McCarthy culture on which the company has prospered and which has enabled it to cope with the toughest of times.
He respected human dignity, was open and sincere and was an outstanding listener with a genuine interest in people. Brian was also a highly focused businessman who believed in excellence and was motivated by achievement. His pleasant personality and sense of humour belied a very competitive spirit, steely determination and amazing tenacity. He was highly persuasive and, at times, demanding but always in a sensitive and appreciative way. Brian was totally committed to his business and simply loved his motor group. I often saw his eyes sparkle and his face light up when good results were delivered! He deserves all the credit for the fact that McCarthy Motor Holdings developed into one of the top motor retailers in the world and the number one motor retailing group in South Africa for a considerable period. He was, indeed, the doyen of motor retailing in South Africa. I also want to pay tribute to him as a business leader of outstanding stature at both national and regional level. He left deep footprints at companies like NBS and Munich Re and played a constructive role in furthering higher education through his involvement at Rhodes University, Fort Hare and UNISA. His deep associations with a number of the most senior world leaders in the motor manufacturing sector was remarkable. We honour the memory of a great man we all loved and one who earned everyone’s respect. This he did, not through his position or status, but because of his unique qualities as a human being. In fact, Brian was one of the most humble people I know. No big ego, no airs or graces, just a down to earth man of enormous substance: the epitome of a real gentleman. He also had an engaged passion for the history, in particular military history. In that sense the McCarthy group support for the Durban in Motion project is appropriate.
He displayed in his office the following quote:
“Men are valuable just in proportion as they are able and willing to work in harmony with other men”.
That, indeed, is how he lived and worked. And his work wasn’t always plain sailing. He had to face up to tremendous adversity during his last years but never once complained. He just worked harder, walking the talk and remaining totally focused on the way forward.
Brian's leadership, wisdom, integrity, warmth, compassion and impeccable example are qualities that those who had the good fortune to be associated with him will always treasure.
His exceptional legacy continues to guide, inspire and encourage those who follow.