THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ALAN BOND
The English-born businessman was a celebrated symbol of Australia’s can-do enterprise, with a stunning rise to prominence beginning in 1959.
It was all going so well, until it wasn’t. Bankruptcy, fraud convictions and four years in prison were all part of the parcel of one of Perth’s most infamous adopted sons.
A company which began as a simple sign-writing business soon grew to one that brewed most of the beer in Australia. Alongside local assets, the Bond Corporation also acquired interests abroad, including the St Moritz hotel in New York and the Lippo skyrise complex in Hong Kong. The corporation also provided a vehicle for Bond to purchase Van Gogh’s Irises for $54 million and bankroll Australia’s America’s Cup bids.
THE 1983 AMERICA’S CUP VICTORY
John Bertrand may have been the skipper, but it was Bond’s money that played a crucial role in Australia II’s historic bid to break the longest streak in world sport. Bond bankrolled the 1983 challenge as part of a syndicate, as well as three previous bids, to become the first international team to win the America’s Cup in its history.
AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR
Bankrolling Australia’s first two challenges at the America’s Cup proved the catalyst for the businessman to be named Australian of the Year in 1978 (alongside Galarrwuy Yunupingu). The honour would be fleeting. It was stripped from him in 1997 when revelations of his corporate criminality came to light.
SPIRALLING DEBT AND BANKRUPTCY
Bond’s financial trouble began to emerge in 1989, when English businessman Roland “Tiny” Rowland exposed his business empire in a 93-page document that showed it was insolvent and trading illegally. Bond was declared bankrupt in 1992, with personal debts amounting to $1.8 billion.
The first inklings of Bond’s underhanded dealings began in 1991 when he was convicted (later acquitted) for theft. It would be a brief reprieve, with Bond jailed in 1996 for four years for stealing $1 billion from Bell Resources to prop up his failing business empire. That, along with three years for a dodgy art deal and a raft of other convictions, made him the biggest fraudster in Australian history.
Bond’s eldest daughter, Susanne, aged 41, was found dead in her home in the upmarket Perth suburb of Peppermint Grove in 2000 from an accidental prescription drug overdose. Just over a decade later, his second wife Diana Bliss suffered a depressive illness for months before was found dead in the swimming pool of the couple’s Perth home in 2012.
Source: AAP, New York Times, Sydney Morning Herald