‘Rhino’ Dodd charges back into the financial sector
The Australian, 22 May 2012
IT was three years ago when Eric Dodd decided “to pull up stumps”.
The man known as “the Rhino” for his intensity, drive and hands-on approach to business had finally met his match in the form of life-threatening prostate cancer. The catalyst for his decision to step back from executive life at 57, he remembers, was a critical board meeting to approve the $2.4 billion merger of the Dodd-run MBF with British health insurance giant BUPA.
“I remember having to come into the office one day straight out of hospital because the board was taking a decision on whether to entertain the bid or not, and I had to make damn sure they made the right call,” he tells The Australian.
“I always remember going into the boardroom and I couldn’t sit downafter the operation. I had to stand up for the meeting. It did make me say, ‘Now what do you want to do in all of this?’
” He made a full recovery and retreated to his Dorick Estate winery in the NSW Hunter Valley on the site of industry doyen Murray Tyrrell’s old cattle farm, with its shiraz, semillon and chardonnay vines that Dodd had planted seven years earlier.
But as he spent at least half of each week contemplating the world, sharing winemaking tales with good friend and former AMP boss Paul Batchelor and working on his golf handicap, he soon realised what he was missing out on: the bustling office towers of Sydney and the lives of his two teenage children.
“I would spend two to three days a week up there. But I would sit there thinking: ‘What the hell am I doing up here when the kids are in Sydney?’
” Sure his battle with cancer had given him a new outlook on life. If there was to be a return, executive roles were definitely out.
“It (the cancer) certainly made him think about the meaning of life,” Batchelor says. “Eric is not scared to share his feelings and emotions with friends.”
But the doctors said nothing against taking non-executive roles helping build businesses in the financial services sector, which has long been a Dodd passion.
So, less than five years after a brutal brush with his own mortality, Dodd is back in the boardroom.