Remembering Jim Cooper

9th February 2022

The Richardson and O’Donnell family is this week remembering Jim Cooper.

Born in Southland in 1940, Jim’s obituary read, “from Gore he went on to build a formidable family business empire in New Zealand, Australia and the USA from his beloved tropical home of Darwin”.

Invercargill-based businessman Bill Richardson and Jim shared quite a bit in common, namely their affinity for vintage vehicles, and the pair were great friends.

Transport World executive director Joc O’Donnell – Bill’s daughter – says Jim’s collection of classic Ford vehicles, including Ford letter cars, was a catalyst in the decision to open Bill Richardson Transport World to the public as a visitor attraction.

“Dad loved sharing his collection of vintage vehicles, and when he passed away and that collection was left to us, it certainly sparked an idea,” Joc says. “Then we heard Jim was looking to sell his own collection in Darwin, which would have meant it would have been split up. Bringing his cars from Darwin to Invercargill to join Dad’s seemed like a great idea. Bill Richardson Transport World opened at the end of 2015, with Jim’s early Fords a big drawcard as well.”

Joc and Scott became directors of Bill’s company HWR Group, along with her mother Shona Richardson, after Bill’s death. Jim’s advice to the trio in those early days was invaluable.

Scott says Jim had played a vital role and was a deeply-trusted sounding board in the early days of stepping into the directors’ shoes at HWR Group.

Jim was one of a trio of advisors the newly-appointed directors dubbed “The Three Wise Men”.

“Jim’s advice to all of us was invaluable,” he says. “The guidance he gave us when we were first appointed directors at HWR Group really was substantial. Every couple of years we would get together and just pull the business apart, looking at it from all angles. He was a great businessman, and a great mentor.”

After returning to settle back in New Zealand with wife Jenny, in Wānaka, Jim started up the impressive and sizeable Devon Derry Farms.

“Jim was an ideas guy – Jim didn’t do anything by halves. If he was going to do something, he did it properly,” Scott says.

Jim’s impact upon both HWR Group and Transport World cannot be understated.

“We just have to thank him, so much, for the contribution he made, the advice and support he gave to us in those early days, when we were young and green,” Joc says.