The em­pire strikes back

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - ROSIE SQUIRES

TONIGHT we delve into the life of Australia’s first bil­lion­aire, Robert Holmes a Court.

It is clear from the be­gin­ning this fi­nan­cial en­tre­pre­neur was as feared as he was ad­mired. He had cre­ated a mam­moth fi­nan­cial em­pire that, at the time of the 1987 stock mar­ket crash, was worth $ 2 bil­lion.

But the crash nearly de­stroyed him. He re­treated from the public eye, and set about mak­ing back his bil­lions, some­thing he al­most achieved but the ef­fort lit­er­ally killed him.

Robert Holmes a Court dropped dead of a mas­sive heart at­tack on Fa­ther’s Day 1990. He was just 53.

In a typ­i­cally un­pre­dictable move, Holmes a Court stunned the world by leav­ing no will. His widow Janet and their four chil­dren would have to de­ci­pher a tan­gled web of as­sets and debts and de­ter­mine who would run the fam­ily em­pire. Over the next 20 years, the ques­tion of what to do in Holmes a Court’s ab­sence al­most broke them apart.

In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math, Janet scram­bled to pick up the pieces. Thrust into the lime­light as Australia’s rich­est woman, she would be­come one of the na­tion’s most ad­mired lead­ers.

It was a trick­ier story for her chil­dren and her el­dest and youngest sons in par­tic­u­lar. To­day, all three are still try­ing to fig­ure out why their fa­ther left things as he did.

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