INTRO After over forty years as CEO of Fairhead’s Trust Company, Greenpoint resident Peter Fairhead is discovering that standing on his head is the secret to a relaxed lifestyle.
By Dawn Kennedy
Copy: “At age 64, it’s time for me to relax. My yoga teacher says I need to hang loose.” Peter looks slightly perplexed when he says this. After all, he’s a high achiever who has lived an adrenalin-fuelled life. A friend once described him, as “living on the edge of the unattainable.”
Peter Fairhead’s C.V. makes for brief reading: employed 1968- present: Fairheads trust company. How many people do you know who have held one job for their entire lives and are not as dull as ditch water? Peter is anything but boring.
Because he’s vivacious, with rugged movie star good looks, people see him as a glamorous figure, especially when he steps into his black sports Mercedes SLK wearing a leather jacket and shades. “People project a kind of Playboy image onto me, which is not remotely accurate. At thirty, I nearly died of alcoholism. That had a profound effect. Although I carry it lightly, I’m essentially very serious.”
The ring tone on Peter phone is the theme tune from the Godfather, which, with one important difference, is how he sees his current role in the business. “The Godfather in the movie ruled by fear; I hope to rule like a good father.”
Theatrical references are fitting as he has a natural talent for acting and an affinity for the arts. “I’ve been told that I have Jack Nicholson smile and a mad eye. But I think that given my tendency to extremism if I’d pursued an acting career, I would have crashed and burned.”
Instead, after completing degrees in law and accounting, he followed his father’s footsteps into the highflying world of finance. “I’m connected with my family name and I carry that proudly. I’m grateful that this work keeps me very grounded.”
Despite a conservative exterior, he has a maverick streak. “I’m an independent person. My views and values are my own, not those proscribed by society.”
Indeed. How many CEO’s do you know that spend nearly a week watching underprivileged children prepare for an art event sponsored by their company? Under the tutelage of Mark Fleishman, Head of UCT drama, nearly 500 school kids attend art, dance and drama workshops to prepare for a parade of life-size paper effigies through the streets of Clanwilliam. It’s a magical event kept alive by Peter’s personal involvement and enthusiasm. He says, “It fascinates me to experience the children’s creativity and be touched by their spontaneous joy. Objectively these kids have little to be optimistic about but there’s a natural creativity and joy inside all of us, whatever our material circumstances. It’s difficult for that not to be killed by a cynicism we call adulthood.”
Having spent his entire life looking after people’s money, Peter views it seriously. “I don’t have a moral stance about money, or a belief that it’s good or bad. It gives people power and freedom. But, it can also trap and limit them.”
When asked about his golden moments, Peter cites “quiet times spent in harmony with another person.” He says his life purpose is “developing personal relationships and keeping them effective. “ He’s currently living separately from his wife Barbara and six stepdaughters in a Penthouse on the Atlantic Seaboard. It’s the first time in many years that he’s living alone and he says he’s “discovering what happens if I don’t have the intense connections with others that have been my main concern for decades.”
One thing he’s exploring is yoga. For the last two years, twice a week an instructor, armed with blocks and belts, comes to his home and teaches him to move his body in ancient ways. To demonstrate his new skill, he slips easily into a cross-legged posture, looking like a smiling Buddha. “At first all the positions seemed impossible but now there are none that I think of with horror. I think my teacher is gentle with me. My favourite position is the headstand.”
Little black book
Practices yoga with Iyengar Yoga instructor Judy Farah 021- 438 3267 or 082 8256792
Favourite yoga posture headstand
Favourite destination. His home in New Mexico. He loves the ancient traditions and creative, people and amazing scenery.
Admits to an occasional impulse to disappear into the desert.
Appreciates art by checking out the galleries in his area, including the Michael Stevenson contemporary gallery 021 421 2575
enjoys scrambled eggs on croissant for breakfast, his favourite meal of the day, best eaten late at Knead Bakery in Wembley Square 021 -422 5099
For lunch, he strolls across the road to the Food Lovers Market and orders sushi.
His favourite dish is penne moskovito at Il Leone in Prestwick Street 021 421-0071.
Hires movies from DVD Nouveau in Bree Street 021 422- 4984 His top three are Don Juan de Marco, Death in Venice and Shakespeare in Love.