From humble beginnings, Glenn Family Foundation's founder Sir Owen Glenn's entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen have made him an internationally-recognised leader in the logistics industry as well as an inspiration to others. Having sold OTS Logistics, the company that he founded, Sir Owen is now focusing on other interests, including his philanthropic endeavours.
Born in Calcutta, India and educated in Darjeerling, Sir Owen immigrated to New Zealand with his family at age 11, where he was educated at Mt Roskill Grammar School. After having to leave school at 15 to begin working, he began his career in logistics with Trans-Tasman Airways, the forerunner of Air New Zealand.
Between 1969 and 1975 Sir Owen established McGregor Squire Air Services (MSAS), a pioneer of full-service freight forwarding, for the Owen and Squire Groups.
In 1978, he formed Direct Container Lines (DCL) which soon became the second largest exporter of goods in the USA. Three years later he set up NACA Logistics, now one of the world’s largest freight forwarding conglomerates.
Sir Owen completed Harvard University’s Owner President Management Program in 1990, expanding his thinking about negotiations, customer communications and technology.
As the Chairman of the OTS Logistics Group, which he has now sold, Sir Owen's vision of creating a truly integrated global transport conglomerate was realised.
Although he spends much of his time overseas, Sir Owen still regards himself as a New Zealander. In 2005, Sir Owen contributed NZ$7.5 million to The University of Auckland Business School. This was a landmark philanthropic contribution in New Zealand education, believed to be the largest private donation in New Zealand educational history, in recognition of which the University named the iconic building in which the School is housed, the Owen G Glenn Building. Shortly after this, Sir Owen donated an additional NZ$500,000 to establish the Barry Spicer and Owen G Glen PhD Scholarships.
Since this time Sir Owen has supported a range of other causes in New Zealand, including the AUT-Millennium Institute of Sport and Health and New Zealand Hockey. He has supported a number of projects in Otara which have focused on sport, education and family wellbeing and has also supported reconstruction after the earthquakes in Christchurch. In India, the Glenn Family Foundation continues to support the rescue of children from exploitation and abuse and village development in the Kalimpong region.
In 1989, Sir Owen won The United States President’s E Award for Success in Exporting.
In 1991, he was given the E Star Award for “continued contributions to the Export Expansion Programme of the USA.” In the same year Sir Owen was nominated by INC. Magazine as their Entrepreneur of the Year.
Honours for Philanthropy
Sir Owen Glenn - Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit
In December 2012, he was named Knight Companion in the Honours List of the Order of New Zealand Merit. This knighthood was given in recognition of Sir Owen's services to business and community. The New Zealand Order of Merit is an Order of Chivalry established in 1996 for ”those persons in any field of endeavour who have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and nation, or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions or other merits.”
The Order’s motto “FOR MERIT” translates as “TOHU HIRANGA” in Maori: “to achieve excellence”. This reflects the Glenn Family Foundation’s own motto “Alte Pete” which means “strive for the highest things.”
Owen Glenn - Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit
In June 2008, Sir Owen Glenn was appointed to the Order of New Zealand Merit. This was given in acknowledgement of his services to NZ business and his philanthropic contribution to the community.The medal was bestowed on him by Prince Charles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
Ren Lapun Owen G Glenn
In a colourful ceremony performed by the Holy Bonting in 2009, the Lepcha people in North East India conferred on Sir Owen the title of Ren Lapun. This title, which means " Master and Creator," is the highest accolade of the Lepcha people and was made in recognition of the assistance that Sir Owen, through the Glenn Family Foundation, has provided to protect and preserve their culture. Only one other living person has ever been honoured with this title.
The Lepchas or Rongs are the indigenous people of the Darjeeling District and Sikkim in North East India. Cousins to the Tibetans and Bhutanese, they have Mongolian origins. Originally a gentle race of nature-worshippers, most Lepchas have now converted to Buddhism, Hinduism or Christianity. Their numbers were diluted with the influx of Nepalese and Indians brought in to work in tea gardens in the area, but the Lepcha people still retain a wealth of folklore, their own language, script and customs, as well as colourful, traditional costumes. Most of the old Lepcha manuscripts ("naamtho-naamthaar)" that still exist are in private hands in the Kalimpong area.
When two Lepcha youth leaders told Sir Owen about their desire to revive and promote their ancient language and script, the Foundation funded the building of three new Lepcha schools. Money was also allocated for printing school textbooks in the Lepcha language and night school classes were started to keep the language alive.
In 2008, when Sir Owen visited the Lepcha Youth Hostel, he found it in disrepair and arranged for the Foundation to provide funds for the renovation of the three-storey building. This included improving the kitchen facilities and providing additional toilets and showers, beds and furniture. A rain water harvesting system was also put in and a brand new community hall was built.
Ratu Owen Vuilawa Glenn
Sir Owen owns a family home in Fiji, near Solevu Village. When he and his family became involved in improving the local village, Ratu Sefnia, the village leader, expressed his gratitude by inducting Sir Owen into his own family and appointing him as a Ratu in his own right. 3,000 people attended the ceremony, with traditional performances and dances kicking off the event. At the ceremony, Sir Owen was presented with traditional gifts, including a pig, cooked whole, and a tabua (whale’s tooth). This was followed by formal speeches and the placing of a tabua necklace around Sir Owen’s neck. He was then proclaimed “Ratu Owen Vuilawa Glenn”. A ceremonial dance followed and the two Ratu shared the drinking of kava to celebrate the occasion.
Rugby and netball games entertained the villagers all afternoon, while children participated in an art/painting competition using art supplies kindly donated by Hanna’s Dream, a US-based charity and partner of the GFF. The day concluded with a Fijian feast and music.
Paul Harris Fellowship for Philanthropy
In 2010, Sir Owen was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship for Philanthropy by the Sunrise-Ellerslie Rotary Club.This award is reserved for people who have a history of long and meritorious service to the community which fulfills the ideals of Rotary for the betterment of humanity.
Fellow of CPA Australia
In October, 2011, CPA Australia made Sir Owen Glenn a Fellow, in recognition of his contributions to both business and philanthropy.
Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Auckland
On February 1, 2012, Sir Owen was awarded the Honorary Degree of of Doctor of Laws by the University of Auckland in recognition for his ongoing commitment to the University and education in New Zealand.