Morgan was born in Putaruru, New Zealand to Welsh migrants Roderic and Mary Morgan, the second of five children and the first to be born in New Zealand. He married Joanne Baird from Invercargill in 1975. They have four children: Samuel, Jessi, Floyd and Ruby. They also have four grandchildren.
From 1958 to 1970, Morgan attended school in Putaruru – Oraka Heights Primary and Putaruru High. He then attended Massey University for four years gaining a BA (Hons) in Economics. In 1982, he graduated from Victoria University with a PhD in economics.
Morgan and wife Joanne are intrepid motor cycle travellers. They have ridden every continent in the world on motor cycles, as part of their World by Bike expeditions. These trips are documented on their motorcycle travel website (http://www.worldbybike.com). Together they have written five motorcycle travel books which document their unique style of unsupported motorcycle long distance tours.
He is father of Sam Morgan (founder of TradeMe), and was an early TradeMe investor and director. When TradeMe sold to Fairfax Media, Gareth and his wife Joanne received NZ$50 million, which they donated to their charitable foundation, the Morgan Foundation which administers the Morgans' philanthropic work. Gareth and Jo Morgan are also UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors.
Morgan worked for the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in the early 1980s, before founding economics forecasting company Infometrics Limited in 1983. That company became one of New Zealand's largest independent economics consultancy and forecasting businesses and for 18 years while under Morgan's leadership (until the end of the 1990s) maintained a regular national circuit of business and public speaking engagements focussed on raising the economics literacy of businesspeople and householders.
In 1984, he and business partner Andrew Gawith launched a twice weekly horse racing form guide, Bettor Informed, based on econometric modelling of all 7,500 gallopers on the New Zealand scene. The publication sought to identify the fair dividend for each horse and to instruct its readers when the odds being paid at the tote were a good return compared to the horse's actual chances of winning in that field. The publication was sold to Independent Newspapers Limited, owners of competitors Best Bets and Turf Digest.
In 2000, Gareth established Gareth Morgan Investments Limited (GMI), a personal investment portfolio management service, which has grown to be one of the largest private businesses of its type in New Zealand. When the New Zealand Government initiated KiwiSaver in 2007, Gareth Morgan KiwiSaver Limited (GMK) launched the Gareth Morgan KiwiSaver Scheme.
Morgan is well known for taking New Zealand's financial services industry to task for questionable ethics and abuse of investors. Over two decades he's been persistent in exposing and criticising the sector, challenging the financial sector to produce safer and more ethical products. Morgan and his wife Joanne were early investors in TradeMe, founded by his son Sam Morgan. They were paid NZ$50m for their shares when Fairfax Media bought Trade Me in 2006. When asked what they would do with so much money, Gareth famously retorted "Let's just give it away." They founded the Morgan Foundation, which administers their philanthropic work around the world.
Morgan was a member of the Government appointed Capital Markets Task Force (2008–2009) and the Tax Working Group (2009). He is the chair of the Motor Cycle Safety Levy Advisory Council, Patron of Wing 256 NZ Police Cadets, and was North & South's New Zealander of the Year in 2007.
In 2011, concerned that Wellington was about to lose its most iconic sports franchise, Gareth and six other Wellingtonians joined together to rescue the Wellington Phoenix, the only professional soccer team in New Zealand. The new owners have promised to run the club at a profit and to reinvest every dollar back into the club and the development of the game in Wellington and beyond.
Morgan has instigated a series of public commentaries and books on issues of public interest. The purpose has been to raise awareness and encourage development of improved response to issues of public concern.2009 – Poles Apart – a book surveying the state of the science around the phenomenon of anthropogenic climate change. This book won a Royal Society prize for excellence. It enlisted the assistance of international eminent scientists on both sides of the debate in a project to determine the weight of evidence around the hypothesis that human-induced climate change is present.
2010 – Health Cheque – a book assessing the state of New Zealand's public health system, international benchmarking of its excellence and formulating suggestions for improvement. The technique involved a combination of literature research and extensive interviewing of health professionals (clinical and management) working throughout New Zealand's public health system.
2011 – The Big Kahuna – this book investigated the contribution that unpaid work makes to New Zealand society, and the consequences of measures of economic production not explicitly recognising such contributions – from community service, to care of the young and elderly. It recommended a series of policy responses to correct the omission.
2011 – Hook, Line and Blinkers – a book assessing the state of the world fish stocks and then appraising the state of fisheries management in New Zealand. The purpose is to identify where the management regime can be improved to ensure that our grandchildren's grandchildren can continue to enjoy the bounty of the sea in a sustainable fashion.
2013 – Appetite for Destruction: Food – the Good, the Bad and the Fatal (with Geoff Simmons) – a book which analyses the pitfalls of contemporary processed food and the problem with contemporary diets more generally.
Along with his wife Jo, Gareth Morgan has been a UNICEF NZ Ambassador and major donor since 2007 and has instigated a number of specific programmes in conjunction with UNICEF since that time. They include:A water project in Tanzania where the Morgans matched a NZ public appeal dollar for dollar for funding to install boreholes, wells and water tanks in 29 villages, and provide basic hygiene education, directly benefiting over 65,000 people.
Repairs to 44 tsunami-damaged schools in the Solomon Islands where the Morgans matched a NZ public appeal dollar for dollar. The programme will ensure that 5,400 children have access to safe drinking water, hygienic toilet facilities, modern and relevant teaching and learning materials, and safe bright classrooms.
Boosting funding for a programme focused on the social adjustment of children in the slums of Bogota, Colombia through funding of the game of peace, Golombiao. This programme will directly benefit 4,000 children, teaching them conflict management skills, promoting peaceful co-existence and preventing their attachment to violence and their participation in illegal armed groups. The Morgans matched dollar for dollar a public appeal run in Bogota for the initiative.
Boosting funding for a programme of assisting displaced indigenous communities around Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. This programme will provide improved access to health, education and family protection of 670 children and adolescents working on the streets.
Since 2006 Gareth and Joanne have supported the work of a number of New Zealanders involved in significant foreign aid around the world. They include:Edric Baker – an inspirational medical doctor who has worked in northern Bangladesh for over 20 years, establishing the Kailakuri Health Centre.
Scott and Tracey Dumbleton – a husband & wife ophthalmic team who worked at the Gilgit Eye Hospital in remote northern Pakistan.
Tristan de Chalain and the plastic surgery reconstruction team at Middlemore Hospital who travel to the Philippines every year to surgically repair cleft lips and palates for affected underprivileged Filipino children.
Judy and Ralph Duley – a retired couple, physical therapists, who work with orphaned handicapped children in Western China.
Rachael Hughes – a woman who has dedicated a decade to assisting the street-kids of Vladivostok, protecting them from violence and helping educate them so they can lead fulfilling lives.
Mary Taylor and her project to help Sri Lankan victims of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami re-establish their fishing businesses and get back on their feet.
2007 – Gareth and Jo provided the Island Bay National Wildlife Refuge with funding to prevent a property developer encroaching on a native bush area, instead allowing the land to be turned into a reserve for the benefit of the whole community.
2010 – Gareth and Jo provided Victoria University's Antarctic Research Centre funding to hire two researchers to work on aspects of climate change in Antarctica.
2011 – Gareth helped Wellington Zoo fund the recovery and rehabilitation of Happy Feet, the stranded emperor penguin. He did this by matching dollar for dollar a public appeal for funding.
2011 – Gareth organised a major scientific and public awareness programme on the environment and territorial threats to Antarctica. This programme centres around a voyage from Bluff to Scott Base taking place in February 2012. On board was a complement of New Zealand's top scientists and a range of communicators chosen from across New Zealand. The objective was to raise the New Zealanders' awareness of the race for resources, the sensitivity of the continent to climate change and the threat to biodiversity of our subantarctic islands from overfishing, marine pollution and climate change.
2013 – Morgan gained international attention for his call for New Zealand's domestic cat population to be eradicated, or rather not replaced when they die, as a means of protecting the country's wildlife. Although the scientific basis for this possible action is disputed, some conservationists were sympathetic. Euthanasia "is an option", according to Morgan's website dedicated to this issue, "Cats To Go".
Gareth Morgan announced in November 2016 that he would launch his own political party, The Opportunities Party (TOP), to contest the election in 2017. Beginning in January 2017, the party announced its policies on its website. On 24 May, the Party announced its first set of candidates including Geoff Simmons who was the party's chief of staff and is now the party's Deputy Leader. He is standing as a candidate for the Wellington Central electorate.