Family Confidential featured in West Australian

23 Feb 2012

Legacy of an enigmatic entrepreneur

Australia's first billionaire Robert Holmes a Court has been a fascinating figure since he burst on to
the corporate scene in the 1970s; and 21years after his untimely death he is still an enigma.

ABC's Family Confidential looks at the self-made tycoon's legacy, with candid insight from wife Janet and sons Peter and Paul, and the enduring fallout of leaving no will. Eldest son Peter, who is based in Switzerland, told The West Australian there was a misconception the family fell apart after struggling to resolve the complex web of assets and debts, and who would control the Heytesbury Holdings empire.

"There is a common miscomprehension that my selling out of the family company brought conflict (but it is) exactly the opposite," Mr Holmes a Court said. Starting from his early years in Africa, to studying law at the University of WA, the episode traces Robert Holmes a Court’s journey to become one of the country's most successful entrepreneurs and the subsequent power struggle between his wife and children after his fatal heart attack on Father's Day 1990.

Mrs Holmes a Court reveals the immediate aftermath was "extraordinarily difficult", as she tried to regain order by taking sole control of the company. The decision for her children to sign over their voting rights became the cause of a conflict that lasted 20 years. "It was hell; it was like war with your own family," she said. Peter Holmes a Court said the family now got along "great". "I am so proud of my brother Paul ... I think my dad would have enjoyed his achievements.”

This episode is an intriguing and insightful peek into the private world of a mysterious, charismatic and respected Australian icon. It has revelations including schoolyard bullying, takeover ambitions, family dynamics and the toll of managing a multimillion-dollar corporation while coping with the loss of a loved one.
Family Confidential The Holmes