Colourful boss Ron was a man of the people

Ron Zambonini
Ron Zambonini

A computer programmer from Motherwell who rose to become boss of Canada’s leading software company has died aged 70.

Ron Zambonini was a colourful character famous for donning Braveheart and Zorro costumes to rally his workers.

He was chief executive of the business intelligence software company Cognos.

The son of Italian shopkeepers, Ron worked for Honeywell at Newhouse before moving to Canada in 1974.

He worked his way up from a programmer and joined Cognos in 1989 as vice-president of research and development. He became chief executive in 1995 and by the time he stepped down in 2004 the company had 3000 employees, more than 22,000 customers in 135 countries and revenues close to $700 million.

Despite his success, colleagues said he remained grounded and never lost his family values or his strong Scottish accent!

Frank Scott, who emigrated from Hamilton in 1996, said: “I came over to work in customer support, but when you spoke to Ron you were talking to an equal, not the leader and chief executive.

“He had a way of connecting with everyone, regardless of their level in an organisation. He was a great man, an unbelievable leader and a true Scotsman.

“We would all run through brick walls when he was in charge.”

When Ron retired from the company, analyst David Wright said: “He will be sorely missed on the conference call. He provided great entertainment value.”

Tribute was paid by industry analyst David Shore who said: “Ron built the premier software company in Canada and one of the premier software companies worldwide.”

Ron is survived by his Scottish wife, Gail, son Paul and two grandchildren. The couple moved from their home in Ottawa to Toronto some years ago to be nearer Paul and his family.

Ron died after a period of illness. He was diagnosed with cancer last year. A private funeral was held in Toronto last week.

He was a keen golfer and a celebration of his life was taking place this week at a golf club in Toronto. A similar event is likely to be held in Ottawa later in the year.