Fred Rae, the patriarch of the Gull fuel retailing fortune, has died aged 87.

Mr Rae, who passed away peacefully in his Perth home on January 17, founded Gull in the 1970s with a low-cost strategy aimed at breaking up the “cosy establishment” of the majors, Gull’s chief technology officer Mike Williamson told WA’s 6PR radio on Monday.

After working in construction and building grain siloes, Mr Rae took out his frustration at what he viewed as overpriced fuel by importing it directly from Singapore to compete with then-dominant BP.

“The word ‘impossible’ was thrown around a lot at the time, but Fred came in and turned it all on its head,” Mr Williamson said.

Gull built a network of more than 100 service stations in WA, and also expanded into New Zealand with a concept of unmanned petrol outlets.

The WA operations were sold in 2010 to Ausfuel for an undisclosed sum – the family has said rumours of a $500 million price tag were exaggerated – and then its Kiwi operations were sold to Caltex in December 2016 for AUD$335m.

Mr Rae’s 62-year-old son, Neil, was previously chairman at Gull Petroleum WA. He told The West Australian last year that the family had retained ownership of the land underneath many of its former sites.

“We’re increasing our activities in the property sector but are also looking at new technologies,” Rae said.

Research for the AFR’s 2018 Rich List recorded the Rae family owning $9.6 million worth of property around WA.

Mr Williamson, who is based at Gull’s New Zealand head office under its Caltex ownership, said his former boss was widely respected.

“He was so successful yet so humble. We loved having him in here,” he said.

Mr Rae, who found time to be mayor of Perth’s Belmont district from 1979 to 1987, is survived by his wife, Norma.

Extracted from AFR