11/03/2015 - 05:44

Passion runs through personal story

11/03/2015 - 05:44


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Bob de la Motte’s life story makes for interesting reading, for those familiar with his work at the heart of Perth’s financial world and as a historical and socio-political snapshot told through sport.

Bob de la Motte was once a fixture in Perth’s investment banking circles.

An émigré from his strife-torn birthplace of South Africa in the late 1980s, Mr de la Motte arrived as an auditor and initially worked on the Bond Corporation account, a very brief encounter that had long and costly personal and legal ramifications as that business unwound.

Those who have dealt with Mr de la Motte (pictured left on his book cover) at a more personal level would be aware of his sporting passions, especially running.

I haven’t had much to do with the lanky former Hartleys and Patersons corporate adviser since he stepped away from the hurly burly of finance, so I was pleasantly surprised to receive a review copy of book he has authored about his life, most notably his attempts to win the gruelling Comrades Marathon in South Africa – a 90km race that has been run for nearly a century.

The book is a lively read that takes the reader through the author’s life, including a boyhood that has both strange parallels and complete diversions from the experience of many who grew up in Western Australia.

Running through this life story is Mr de la Motte’s introduction to the ultramarathon between the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban and his efforts to win the race, coming second on three occasions.

The Comrades element of the story is more than just the author’s personal sporting battle; it reveals the intriguing struggle of ordinary people doing extraordinary things set against the backdrop of Apartheid.

As the book explains, the race became enormously popular in South Africa due to the international ban on that country’s attendance at any major sporting contests. Yet even as South Africa’s white sportsmen and women suffered for the nation’s racist laws, the race was open to athletes of all colours in the early 1970s.

It seems such an odd relaxation of draconian laws to have the state’s most popular sporting event contested without any racial bias. As a result of this quirk, Mr de la Motte suggests the race was a brief moment when South Africans could experience or express real tolerance.

The publishing of memoirs is becoming more popular as printing has become cheaper (or printers more keen for the business, perhaps), a trend I find very agreeable. A life is a story, and yet so many are never recorded.

Mr de la Motte’s decision to focus the book around his passion, a sport that took him to near the pinnacle of a challenging race, albeit largely unknown to even the most avid sports fans, offers a historic theme that would make it appealing well beyond Perth’s financial circles.

Women in business

Congratulations to Barb de Corti and Vanya Cullen, Western Australia’s latest inductees into the Australian Businesswomen’s Network Hall of Fame.

Ms de Corti’s drive has made Australia a leading market for ENJO, the cleaning product that has been successfully sold through network marketing, like many household consumer goods.

Addressing a Business News event a few years ago, Ms de Corti offered a great insight into understanding a market. ENJO is a European brand but its market penetration is greatest in Australia, and its key people often visit here to observe the business.

Ms Cullen has a very different story. As chief winemaker and managing director of Cullen Wines, she took over the business from her father and has nurtured it.

As someone who has covered the local wine industry over many years, and at times in quite some depth, I am always intrigued by how much Ms Cullen’s views are closely followed in the sector. She is highly respected.


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