The business community poured words of praise on the founder and chairman of Panta Lesco Group of Companies Barth Attard, who passed away last week at the age of 82. Described not only as a fine businessman but also as a ‘gentleman above all’, Mr Attard will be deeply missed. By David Darmanin
Less than 15 years after starting his electrical and plumbing business, Mr Attard had already gained a formidable reputation in Saudi Arabia, where he had won contracts of considerable size. Demicoli and Associates founder Arch. Ray Demicoli recounts an anecdote involving Mr Attard’s business in Saudi going back to 1974 – not long after the architect had taken his warrant.
“At the time I had the occasion of being introduced to Prince Faysal in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “As soon as the prince discovered I was from Malta he said to me: ‘I know Malta, my best friend Barth Attard is Maltese.’”
Describing Mr Attard as a “gentleman par excellence”, Mr Demicoli said: “He was an impressive man. One of the most charming and generous people I ever met.”
Mr Attard’s nephew, Attard Brothers Director Michael Attard, told Business Today that after a few days, his uncle is already being missed.
“He was more than an uncle to me,” the contractor said. “I frequently met him for advice, and even if I was very stressed with work, I never ended my meetings with him in a bad mood. Every time I met him I felt changed, as a person. He not only influenced me greatly, but it was also him who started me in business.”
Describing Mr Attard as “a second father”, the Attard Brothers director said: “my uncle never said a bad word against anyone – he was not jealous of other people in business, but rather – he always made it a point to appreciate the positive characteristics of his competitors. He gave me a lot of courage and I trusted him with just anything. He was a brilliant yet very honest businessman.”
Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry President Helga Ellul also agreed that Mr Attard was an exemplary businessman.
“He was not only a very good businessman, but a gentleman above all – and this is what he passed on to both his sons.”
She remembers Barth as a man who never made enemies and as one who “never walked out of a business deal before he ensured that all parties involved were happy”.
Mr Attard started from humble beginnings, setting up a small shop in Valletta selling plumbing equipment and fans in 1960. The name Panta Lesco, in fact, takes the name from the original shop with the namesake of its previous tenant – Pantelleresco.
“He started from the basics and set up a fantastic business for his sons,” Mrs Ellul said. “He is an inspiration for young people to start their own venture. He will be missed.”
Corinthia Group director Victor Pisani too said “Barth was one of the nicest men I ever came across with in my life. Besides being a very good businessman, he always sported a smile and had a good sense of humour.”
Architect Joe Farrugia, who also had interests in Saudi Arabia throughout the 1970s, said “I owe Barth a lot. He is the person I had approached before going to Saudi, and he guided me. I’m very grateful to him because he not only changed my life, but also that of all the people I took up with me there. He was a wonderful man”
Upon hearing the news of his demise, Mr Farrugia contacted the former Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Al Fraih. “When I gave him the news, he was very saddened too. The two worked closely in Saudi.”
Social Policy Minister John Dalli also praised Mr Attard for “fulfilling his obligations both in his personal business as well as in national entities on which he served”.
“He was a gentleman,” the former Finance Minister said.
On his part, economist and former Labour Minister for Finance Lino Spiteri said: “Barth Attard was one of a brand of people who from the 1960s on helped to add colour to the face of Malta. From humble beginnings, he went on to develop a business which in time became a conglomerate. He was one of the few individuals who earlier on had the courage to venture abroad seeking contracts of work which were not at all easy to acquire, much less to fulfill. His business empire will continue to be run by his sons, but he will be sorely missed by them and the rest of business Malta.”