The 33-year-old, named in InDaily’s inaugural list of South Australia’s top 40 leaders under the age of 40 in early June, suffered a heart attack at his home in Port MacDonnell on June 20.
William was sales director for his family’s seafood business, Ferguson Australia Group, and general manager of its export subsidiary, Five Star Seafoods.
The Ferguson family has paid tribute to William as a respected industry leader, strategic thinker and problem-solver.
They have credited William with establishing the third-generation family business as one of South Australia’s most significant exporters of Southern Rock Lobster.
“William had salt in his veins and first went out on the lobster boats with me at the tender age of four,” said his father, Andrew Ferguson, the managing director of Ferguson Australia Group.
“While a true general manager with the knack for involving and listening to everyone while keeping his eye on the big picture, William was so much more than that – he was a son, a friend, a business partner and a strategist.
“He had a big heart and personality to match and will be sorely missed for his love and passion for our family and his great sense of humour. I feel I owe William a great deal for the role he played in our business development. Rest assured, mate, we will carry your vision on and finish that unfinished business in your honour.”
William was born in Millicent in 1985, the only son of Andrew and Debra Ferguson. He has two sisters – Kate Birch and Eliza Ferguson.
He was educated at Glendale Christian School, Prince Alfred College and Scotch College.
He joined the family business after completing Year 12, first working as a crew member for Ferguson Fisheries during lobster season. A year later, in 2003, he entered the processing side of the business, working under factory manager Brett Cooper, William’s uncle, until Brett’s death in 2004.
In a statement, the Ferguson family said: “On taking over the reins, William’s innovative thinking and expertise in seafood processing and export accreditation to the EU, Japan, Russia and, more recently, China and Asia, helped the company to forge ahead, build international relationships and take export sales to another level.”
In an interview with InDaily on being named in South Australia’s top 40 Under 40 business leaders, he expressed his passion for South Australia and his desire to continue to live and work here.
“We have the privilege of being the number one state for food and wine in the country and the number one country in the world for food and wine,” he said.
“So it is an honour to be part of the food and wine industry in South Australia and also represent the state on a global stage. It is fantastic to work alongside passionate fishermen, foodies and wineries, who are brilliant at what they do. I know the best is yet to come for South Australia.”
William’s funeral is being held at 2.30pm today (Friday) at Malvern Uniting Chruch.
The Ferguson family says they welcome donations to the Heart Foundation in lieu of flowers.