Martin Gilbert, outgoing Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) Vice-Chairman, has assured Scottish Golf, the European Tour and the Ladies European Tour of the company’s full and continued support following his retirement.
Gilbert founded Aberdeen Asset Management (AAM) in 1983 becoming CEO and in 2017 the company merged to form Standard Life Aberdeen with the proud Scot appointed as co-CEO.
While born in Malaysia, Gilbert studied at Aberdeen University and after well over 30-years at the helm of AAM and then ASI, he stepped down from that role in March 2019. In September later this year, he will retire from the company.
Gilbert is a member of four golf clubs – Royal Aberdeen, Deeside, Sunningdale and Royal Selangor in Malaysia and with his enthusiasm, in 2012 AAM took over title sponsorship of the men’s Scottish Open. In 2017, the premier Scottish event became a founding Rolex Series tournament.
AAM did sponsor the 2008 Ladies Scottish Open for that one year but it was in 2011, when Scotland’s own Catriona Matthew won at Archerfield, that the company began a now 10-year association with Scottish Golf and the Ladies European Tour.
“The Scottish Open, both the ladies and the men, has become very much associated with Aberdeen Standard Investments and the holding company, Standard Life Aberdeen,” said Gilbert.
“Having the tournaments in Edinburgh has really helped and I know the Chairman (Sir. Douglas Flint) shares my view that these tournaments are events that we should be continuing with.
“Of course, nothing is guaranteed with the Coronavirus shutdown but if this pandemic had not have happened, I could give you an unequivocal reply.
“I still think we would love to do it but then the whole European Tour is up for grabs at the moment as no-one knows when events are going to be played and how may are going to be played.”
And Gilbert was asked in the bigger business picture what he felt will be the landscape in terms of companies surviving post the lifting of the lockdown.
“There should be no concerns for the big brands as it will be small businesses who will be affected certainly more than big businesses,” he said.
“It will certainly affect the leisure industry while tourism will revert back, with tourism now being within our own country and with national priorities before globalisation.
“So, for businesses like ourselves that have an international presence our sponsorship of sport will be as important.
“I am sure the issue some sponsors will have is sporting events being played behind closed doors and largely for television.
“Certain sponsors and probably like ourselves would prioritise television over attendance but certainly some of them will prioritise attendance over the TV.
“So, for our company, the TV exposure of the men in the U.S and then the TV exposure for the women in Asia, is very, very important to us as a business.”
And don’t expect to see Gilbert just fade into retirement as he is keen to maintain his strong relationship with some of the game’s greats including fellow Aberdonian, Paul Lawrie plus the likes of Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.
Gilbert and Lawrie teamed in 2001 to win the inaugural and rain-interrupted Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews, with Lawrie the first male to win a golf tournament using the then new Callaway 2Ball putter.
“Hopefully I can scrounge some tickets for the golf or wangle my way into a few pro-ams,” Gilbert joked.
“That was a unique experience, to play with Paul in winning a big event like the Dunhill. I still have the pictures of me picking the ball out of the hole for him at the 18th.
“He’s been such a great player, I still marvel at his ball-striking even now. His rise since we started sponsoring him has been a big thrill, and my only disappointment is he didn’t get the exemptions to play on the US Seniors Tour that would have seen his career take off again there.
“As a fan, playing with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler last year, and with Phil Mickelson when he won the Scottish up at Inverness, you can’t replace that thrill. Such amazing players and great guys to deal with.
“I was also really thrilled to see Robert MacIntyre, who we’ve sponsored since he was an amateur, doing so well last year, that’s really been a more recent highlight. Seeing the men’s and ladies events growing to the level they have has really been amazing.
“Also the amateur game, we have to encourage golf at grassroots and amateur level or it will decline even in Scotland. Our amateurs have had great success but until Bob I guess we haven’t seen so many grow into the pro game as we’d hoped.”