For service to Manufacturing, Vehicles & Investment Banking
Gibbs Amphibians Ltd
Alan Gibbs is an entrepreneur, adventurer, merchant banker, philanthropist and art collector. He is the founder of Gibbs Amphibians Limited, and the owner of the famous Gibbs Farm in Kaipara Harbour, Auckland.
Gibbs was born to Theo and Elsie Gibbs on October 29, 1939. He grew up in Cashmere, Christchurch and was the much doted-on youngest of five siblings, before the family moved to Wadestown, Wellington in 1947.
Upon completing his schooling at Wellesley College and Wellington College, Gibbs studied engineering at the University of Canterbury. He completed 3 of the 4 years required for an engineering degree before switching to a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Economics, and subsequently completing a Masters in Economics at Victoria University of Wellington. In 1961 Gibbs married Jenny Gore in Paraparaumu and in 1963 they welcomed their first daughter Amanda who would be followed by Debbi, Emma and son Thane. Soon after graduating Gibbs left New Zealand to work as a diplomat in London before returning to New Zealand in 1965.
Over the next few decades Gibbs proved himself an astute businessman and entrepreneur. He went on to become involved in the manufacturing of a wide range of products including bricks, crockery, television sets, and refrigeration. Gibbs worked in merchant banking in both Australia and New Zealand, before establishing and running his own business with which, he continued to defend companies against hostile takeovers and undertake takeovers of his own.
Companies such as Ceramco, Bendon and Tappenden are among the various acquisitions in Gibbs’ illustrious career. Gibbs orchestrated the management buy-out of the country’s biggest publicly listed freight, courier and security company, Freightways Ltd, and retained a fifty percent share in it. He was also an early backer of Sky TV and co-lead the syndicate that purchased New Zealand Telecom; the restructuring of which quadrupled its share price in five years. He has also undertaken projects for the New Zealand government, advising on the restructure of the public hospital system, and to restructure and privatize the substantial government-owned forestry sector.
In 1991 Gibbs purchased what would become the famous Gibbs Farm. The land was initially purchased with the intention of having a decent area to drive his armoured vehicles, hummers, tanks, and the like. The ideal location provided Gibbs with a playground close enough to his business in Auckland city, but remote enough for privacy. Since purchasing the land Gibbs has become one of New Zealand’s leading art collectors with works by Richard Serra, Eric Orr, Anish Kapoor, and Maya Lin inhabiting the 1,200-acre sculpture park.
As a result of the extremely tidal nature of the Kaipara Harbour proving a regular annoyance for Gibbs, he began experimenting with amphibious vehicles in 1994. In 1997 he began to develop a concept in Detroit until relocating the operation to the United Kingdom in 1999. After years of development, the world’s first road-legal, high speed amphibious vehicle was shown to the public in September 2003 - - Prior to 2003 the World record for an amphibious vehicle on water was 8.7mph. By enabling the Aquada to rise on the plane he broke that record with a speed of 32.7mph
Gibbs Amphibians Ltd. has since developed a range of high speed vehicles such as the Phibian, Humdinga, Biski, Quadski and Terraquad. He has developed 11 different automobiles and has more than 50 different patents in his name. Gibbs sees amphibious vehicles emerging as a wave of the future, noting that it took 30 years for the ordinary motor car to become a profitable business model.
Gibbs has always been a prolific traveler and reader interspersing business with frequent trips and dedicating several hours a day to reading, observing “The more interests you have the more interesting life is”
Since 2003 Gibbs has explored in his helicopter 110 countries (a world record). The pilot was his son in law Richard Garard organised by his wife and Gibbs daughter Emma.
*Serious Fun The Life and Times of Alan Gibbs Paul Goldsmith