The empire strikes back
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.