A portrait of times past

Joe GaggeroJoe Gaggero, businessman and sometime visionary, was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth at a time when many of his compatriots lived on the borderline of poverty. Born 78 years ago into one of the wealthiest families on the Rock, in maturity he parlayed the businesses he came to control into the Bland Group empire – expanding its interests in shipping, travel, hotels and its flagship GB Airways – which by March 2005 (the end of the 2004 financial year) had clocked up profits of £206 million.

Though Gaggero has made his home in England for many years, for much of his life his and Blands’ story parallels that of Gibraltar, so that his recently published autobiography “Running with the baton” reads not only as the “Gibraltar family history” of its sub-title but also as an socio-economic history of the Rock over the past six decades.

Tracing the Gaggero’s early family history on the Rock – as told to him in a fairly sanitized version as a child – Gaggero read at his best in the chapters dealing with his childhood – though it is probably to later chapters that future economic or social historians will turn.

And here his comments on the Chamber in its early post-war years will be of interest to members. He was 24 when he was elected to the Chamber’s board – seen in those days as a haven of the “old guard”.

“Other members were mostly old hands who had been through the rigours of the war and who, as long as I didn’t encroach on their interests, welcomed my youthful brashness with great goodwill and even a little attention,” he writes, later adding:

“Gibraltar’s commercial life took place in a time warp, stuck at least 20 years behind the times. Everyone sat behind their neat desks and just basically waited for the business to come in…”

It was this that drove him to expand the Bland Group’s interests, so, in a sense, the Chamber could almost take some of the credit for the Group’s present day success.

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