Sunday, February 27, 2011

Driven Personalities - Jac Nasser

The photo in this post features two very good friends of mine, Sir Stirling Moss and the irrepressible Jac Nasser. They both looked pretty pleased with life, and you would too, having the great Stirling Moss taking you for several laps of the Laguna Seca road racing circuit, just outside Monterey, California.

The car is a beautifully-restored Aston Martin DB3, and the photo was taken in the paddock in 1999 – a time when Ford Motor Company still owned Aston Martin.

Jac Nasser is a true ‘car guy’ and I know he really enjoyed having responsibility for both Aston Martin and Jaguar at the time. There were many events around the world when Jac got into either a classic Jag or Aston, and was really able to indulge his automotive fantasies.

I first met Jac in Australia when I was an automotive journalist and he was head of Ford Australia. We have been friends ever since. I admired his tenacious pursuit of strong management, his determination, his integrity, and his (usually) unflappable demeanour. I know there were times when his short fuse led to fireworks, but fortunately for me it was happening to someone else.

I believe Jac Nasser was short-changed when he was at Ford, because his integrity saw him take on huge responsibilities on behalf of the company, and he stuck his neck out on more than one occasion when a lesser man might have shrunk from exposure to controversy. Like all great men he probably made a few decisions he wished he hadn’t, but by and large he was a strong leader for Ford – after devoting a big part of his life to the company.

I once loaned him the use of a Bentley Arnage for a weekend when he was occupying the office on the top floor of the ‘glasshouse’ in Dearborn, but it took me until Tuesday to retrieve it. He told me he got a real charge out of driving around downtown Birmingham, Michigan, in the Arnage – probably sparking all sorts of rumours about Ford taking over Bentley!

So now, Jac Nasser is Chairman of BHP-Billiton, Australia’s biggest resource company, and I couldn’t think of a more fitting position for one of Australia’s most successful ‘migrant kids’. If ever a life of struggle, hard work, determination to succeed, and achievement should be used to promote the opportunities being an Australian can offer, then Jac Nasser is a great poster boy.

I wish him well, he deserves the good things life can provide!

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