Founder, sage and oracle dies aged 99

There's rarely time for a fireside chat when you're the chief executive of a blue-chip company, but Woodside Petroleum bosses have always made an exception for one man.

There's rarely time for a fireside chat when you're the chief executive of a blue-chip company, but Woodside Petroleum bosses have always made an exception for one man.

The South Yarra home of Geoff Donaldson has been one of the first ports of call for newly installed Woodside executives in recent decades, in a kind of tribute to the man considered to be the founding father of the oil and gas giant.

A foundation investor and chairman of the company for 28 of its first 30 years, Mr Donaldson died in recent days at the age of 99.

His reputation at the company was unrivalled, he being largely credited with shifting the company's focus from the eponymous small town in eastern Victoria to the highly prospective waters of north-western Australia.

It was there that Woodside played a part in the massive North-West Shelf oil and gas project, which helped turn the company from a minnow into a $56 billion giant at its peak in 2008.

Its value is only half that today, but Woodside remains the 12th biggest company on the ASX by market capitalisation.

Current Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman visited Mr Donaldson recently, and said he remained very engaged in the company's affairs.

"Even at the age of 99, Geoff continued to follow Woodside closely. He would be full of questions about our activities and full of advice," he said.

While 99 is a good innings in anyone's language, Mr Donaldson's comments in a 2010 interview suggest that at least one of his wishes remained intact to his dying day.

"I wouldn't want to see Woodside taken over by anyone," he told Fairfax Media, in reference to Royal Dutch Shell's failed attempt to acquire the company.

"I want it to remain as Woodside."

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