Kevin Gilligan

Kevin John Gilligan was born in 1938 and passed away April 10th, 2011. He was both an accountant and a businessman. His business experience drove his advice and support of clients more than his accounting experience in corporates and elsewhere.

Bruce Sheppard and Kevin Gilligan are two of the most unlike people you could ever meet. The only thing they had in common was that they were both accountants.

“I always felt they were like chalk and cheese,
or oil and water.”

Margaret Becroft, a former employee at Gilligan Sheppard, reflects on the Kevin Gilligan she knew…

“Kevin brought to the mix his own loyal group of clients who seemed happy with the work that he did for them. He was a loving husband to Wendy and father to four children and quite indulged the youngest. I worked in a room next to him (which was never as easy as working with Bruce I must mention), as he didn’t really like being questioned.”

“When I arrived at work each morning, I never knew just what tale he would greet me with. His disasters were so funny, and I told him he would make his fortune if only he could write them down. I will never forget the time he arrived at work with swellings over his neck and arms caused by a beehive falling off the back of the trailer. Or the tale of the electrocuted horse rampaging through his glasshouse. And there were many others… all experiences outside his accountancy work.”

“He should have stuck with accounting
– it was much less dangerous.”

“Over time, Gilligan Sheppard had accumulated a number of unusual members of staff. This one time, the receptionist told him she had personality issues which might just see her killing him if the mood took her. The shocked look on his face was priceless. Then there was the time he ripped the sleeve off an employee’s shirt because he was sick of him turning up in clothes that were old and frayed.”

“Even when Kevin’s health started failing, he ignored it and carried on regardless. But something I will always remember, was the amazement when he departed, that Bruce was not going to give up the name ‘Gilligan Sheppard’ when they went their separate ways. Matthew Gilligan, his son, was also horrified as he was expecting to open his own accounting firm using the surname – didn’t stop him though.”

Bruce Sheppard describes Kevin as a person of immense generosity of spirit…

“He would help anyone and go out of his way to do so, even if it meant his own personal position was put at risk. Unfortunately, people took advantage of that. He didn’t particularly focus on the economics of running an accounting business, but did focus on the personality and character that he wished to be remembered for. At that time, just 25 years of age, I was only focussed on economics and making money.”

“He taught me the importance of creating character and memory. No one remembers economics. It’s an outcome.”

“Kevin was also very literal – have a read here of The Marsden Robinson tea lady principle, and surprisingly, Kevin was able to annoy people even more than me at times.”

“Kevin was a risk taker and he taught me the joy of risk taking in venture capitalism. He introduced me to a couple of very successful opportunities. He backed the scientist at Pacific Lithium who had converted lithium from sea water. It grew to $100m capitalisation, and even today, the underlying technology is one of the major cause events, enabling lithium batteries that now are embedded in every electrical car. Without Kevin Gilligan, John Broome the scientist, Robin Johannik the anchor investor, and Murray Haszard, both clients of GS at the time, it’s highly likely we wouldn’t have the scale of electric cars we do today.”

“Without those connections and the small things that Kevin did, great outcomes may not have occurred.”

“He had a few one liners that have stuck with me…

I asked him “What the hell are you doing buying a lifestyle block?” And he replied,

“I always wanted a Ramarama llama farmer, drama.”

And… “Bruce, people don’t plan to fail. They just fail to plan.”

Kevin left many legacies that are still vibrant within Gilligan Sheppard today:

  • An appetite for risk
  • An understanding of character
  • An ability to tell stories
  • A sense of humour

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Bruce Sheppard & Margaret Becroft