Mr Brien and his wife Therese are recognised as pivotal members of the South Australian community with grants – often anonymous – to medical groups along with support for junior sport.
He leaves a legacy that continues to support Adelaide and benefits to the community that extend beyond his name that remains on the dealership in the suburb of St Marys.
In paying tribute, the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) said Mr Brien would be greatly missed and was a valued member of the industry.
“It is with sadness that we received the news that Adrian Brien, a valued member of the industry, passed away in early February,” the AADA said.
Mr Brien was born in Melbourne during the Depression and moved to Sydney as a young boy. He was an accomplished pianist and gave regular performances at Sydney town hall eisteddfods.
As a teenager he worked on the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme before starting in the automotive industry selling cars door to door in Melbourne.
He moved his family to Adelaide in 1968 when an opportunity in the industry became available and in 1971, at age 35, he took over a Ford dealership to become the youngest dealer in the company’s history in Australia. He later added additional franchises Honda, Hyundai, Jeep and Chrysler.
In 1980 he was the inaugural winner of the Time Magazine Quality Automotive Dealer of the Year Award.
His businesses were consistently rated in the BRW Top 500 Private Companies and the South Australian Top 100 Private Enterprises which awarded his company for outstanding achievement in business and contribution to economic growth.
Mr Brien’s commitment to the industry began with his appointment to the Vehicle Dealer & Second Hand Licensing Board of SA from 1981 to 1983. In 1982 he started a term as chairman of the Ford National Dealer Council of Australia which, at the end of his tenure in 2001, made him the longest-serving Ford National Council Chairman anywhere in the world.
During this period he was instrumental in the development of what is now regarded as the standard industry model dealer sales agreement. He was also a consistent lobbyer for Australian dealer interests with Ford management in the US.
Mr Brien served on many industry and franchise committees and boards.
His community involvement led to his appointment to the Flinders Medical Centre board of management from 1981 to 1983; in 1984 he was made a life governor of the Flinders Medical Centre Research Foundation; from 1994 to 2000 he was a governor of the Flinders University Foundation board of governors; and was a member of the interim appeal planning committee for the Flinders Cancer Foundation.
Mr Brien’s company was also a strong supporter of junior sport development, corporate sport sponsorship and sponsorship of Olympic athletes. In 2000 he was awarded the Australian Sports Medal by the prime minister for services to sport.
Over many years Mr Brien and his wife Therese gave anonymous support to many charitable causes including personally supporting the education of more than 20 children in Australia and overseas through educational scholarships.
Mr Brien sold his automotive franchises in 2001 to the Adtrans Group, which in turn was bought by AP Eagers Ltd, now Eagers Automotive Ltd.
In the same year, he received an Award in the Order of Australia – Member General Division for service to industry and the community. He was also recognised with the presentation of the Australian Centenary Medal that was awarded by the prime minister in April, 2003.
After he left the industry, Mr Brien was appointed a director of Medibank Private Limited where he chaired the investment committee. He was also appointed a member of the Innovation Board of Australia; Venture Capital Committee (Department of Innovation Industry Science & Research); Pooled Development Funds (Venture Capital); and the board of AusIndustry.
He also served as a trustee of the Les Favell Cricket Foundation, chairman of International Musculoskeletal Research Clinic, and member of the Mitsubishi Strategic Advisory Board.
Mr Brien was involved behind the scenes with the Liberal party and mentored and supported the political careers of many young men and women.
He died suddenly this month after a very short illness at age 85. He is survived by wife Therese, son Marc and daughters Julie, Andrea and Lisa.
By Neil Dowling