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Winemaker and Wild Oats XI owner Bob Oatley dies at 87

Bob Oatley in 2014 at. Photo: Getty Images

Australian entrepreneur Bob Oatley has died. He was 87.

Oatley was a winemaker and businessman but was probably best known in Australian life as the owner of Wild Oats XI, the eight-time winner of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

He made his fortune in wine, establishing the Rosemount wine business in 1969 and selling it to Treasury Wine Estates back in 2001 for a stunning $1.4 billion.

Two years later, Oatley bought Hamilton Island and developed it into the world-class resort that it is today, frequented by celebrities and home to the ultra-luxurious Qualia hotel. Taylor Swift stayed on the island for a break while she was recently touring in Australia.

His personal fortune was estimated at around $1.2 billion. More recently, Oatley had his own line of Oatley Wines. His son Sandy now runs the family business.

Wild Oats XI in Sydney Harbour in December 2015. Photo: Getty Images

But yachting was his passion and Oatley was famous for never doing business on a Wednesday because he would use the day to go sailing. He developed the Audi Race Week at Hamilton Island, probably Australia’s most high-profile yachting event after the Sydney-Hobart, and tried to mount a challenge for the America’s Cup in 2013 but had to pull out because of the cost.

Wild Oats XI won the Sydney to Hobart eight times in 10 attempts. In the most recent 2015 race, however, it retired early after its mainsail tore in half in a 40 knot squall on the first night of racing after leaving Sydney.

Oatley is survived by his wife Valerie and children Sandy, Ian and Ros.

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