There’s something surreal and unconventional when one of the most outstanding – and certainly the most colourful – entrepreneurs in our telecommunications history has departed the industry almost totally without recognition or comment. But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised - everything about Tex Edwards is unconventional.
He finally settled his long standing, high profile dispute with the company he founded, 2Degrees Mobile, and wafted quietly into the sunset earlier this month.
Tex was not the only great entrepreneur in our post-monopoly telecommunications history. Others such as Malcolm Dick, James Watts, Annette Presley, Barry Payne and Paul Clarkin deserve very honorable mention. But for flamboyance, colour, raw intellect and dogged persistence, Tex was one of a kind.
I remember the first time I met Tex as clearly as though it was yesterday. His PA had rung me the day before, asking to make an appointment for her boss who she was not permitted to name. He wanted to discuss something with me that she was not able to elaborate on. Against my better judgement, but curious, I made a time.
When Tex arrived next morning his first action was to close the curtains in my office. People were watching his movements, he told me. Slightly disconcerting behaviour at a first time meeting! Over the years his style never really changed.
But if the behaviour was often idiosyncratic, his determination to get a third mobile operator into play to break the incumbent duopoly never wavered. Nor did his clever and insightful, though sometimes coded commentary on the dynamics of the market and the regulatory challenges. His analysis was not always easy to follow first time round, but it was always worth taking the time to understand. Tex is a very deep and incisive thinker whose quirky communication style disguises awesome intellect.
In more ways than one Tex has been a disrupter. At a high level he successfully disrupted an entire industry. At a lower level he has disrupted meetings – typically by arriving late, accusing everyone of collusive behaviour, and having raised the blood pressure around the table to maximum limits, making a dramatic exit. Yet the learning over the years was that his madness always had method. Oddball though he may come across, underlying this he was usually the smartest guy in the room. Many learned this to their cost.
I remember saying at my farewell from TUANZ that Tex has a unique combination of lunacy and genius. Nothing since has changed my mind.
With the Texit (thanks to my friend and colleague Chris O’Connell for the term) New Zealand telecommunications farewells a colourful, intelligent, courageous, good-humoured, passionate, controversial, totally genuine person. One who evoked a range of emotions depending on the relationship and circumstances of the day, but at a human level was genuinely liked by foe as well as friend. His ready willingness to laugh at his own idiosyncrasies has endeared him to many.
Au revoir Tex. I look forward to your next move whatever it may be. New Zealand’s telecommunications landscape is vastly better for your enterprise. Every time we pick up a mobile phone, thanks to you, it is significantly more affordable than before you walked in that morning and closed my curtains.