Gary Burgess reflects on his encounters with Derek Coates

Derek Coates
Credit: ITV Channel TV

Derek Coates may not have been physically larger than life, but his personality certainly was.

He was somebody who spied an opportunity and then wasted no time in simply getting on with it. 

Build a mail order vitamins firm to unsettle the high street brands that had previously enjoyed an easy ride? Check. 

Buy and airline and work hard to needle the incumbent to disrupt the market? Check. 

Buy hotels and use your health products firm and your airline to create a ready made flow of willing well-being holidaymakers? Check. 

I interviewed Derek a number of times over the years. Always an occasion. And always guaranteed to create the ‘news line’ all journalists crave. 

I remember during the days when his airline and Aurigny were slugging it out, he wasn’t backwards in coming forwards with his views on some of the politicians getting in his way. It was never done in a mean way, always with a trademark glint, but you also always knew he had the determination to fight his corner when he needed to. 

I also recall him as the guest speaker at a WEA Guernsey course on the island’s economy (I signed up for their evening classes one year). Derek brought the night to life, telling the Healthspan story but also speaking with some envy of the way Amazon had created the Kindle to keep you shopping inside their ecosystem. That was the single moment where I realised just how passionate he was about his trade. 

His legacy to the Bailiwick of Guernsey is a series of brands that have added richness to island life and to the economy. 

My thoughts are with his family on the day we learn of the death of a real character. RIP Derek.