8 things we learned about Alan Bond from his Enough Rope interview in 2003


In 2003, Alan Bond agreed to be interviewed by Andrew Denton for Denton’s one-on-one chat series, Enough Rope.

It was a tense episode. Bond and Denton clashed repeatedly about interpretations of Bond’s recently released biography and you can read the full transcript here.

We’ve highlighted a few revealing moments which gave some insight into what made Australia’s biggest businessman tick.

His mum was … unique.

When he was young, Bond said his mum made him make appointments to see her. They’d then drink tea out of a silver service and talk from a list of subjects she had prepared beforehand.

She’d prepare the … tea and we’d go either afternoon tea or morning tea and the silver teapot was there and there was to be no disturbances, and she had a typed list out of all the things that she wanted to ask and we went through them — one by one they were ticked off.

He and his first wife Eileen sold blocks for cash in their first big land deal in Lesmurdie, Perth.

We had this big bag and Eileen would put the money into the bag… We had this sort of wooden clock and, um, we’d give people five-minute options. When you got a five, you’d look at the block, come back in five minutes, see if you wanted to buy it. They had to make their mind up. Those were the days.

He sold 17 kilometres of “oceanfront blocks” that were actually just sandhills by painting them green.

What I did was come up with the idea that we would spray the sandhills with a thin bitumen, put some grass seeds in it and a lot of paint in with the bitumen. So we sprayed it to hold the sand down and of course it was green, so they looked like green hills. And, er, looked good in the brochures.

On Kerry Packer’s famous quote “You only get one Alan Bond in your lifetime”. (Packer bought Channel Nine in 1990 for $500m after selling it to Bond for $1 billion three years earlier):

He had an opportunity to get it back. It wasn’t doing as well then under our management. We couldn’t get the profits out that he was indicating we should’ve got out. I think he’s probably right. His management team was better than ours.

He used to stroke the $54 million Van Gogh painting hung in his boardroom.

Irises, Vincent Van Gogh. Picture: J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California

…the Van Gogh painting was a wonderful painting. And to appreciate Van Gogh, to be able to touch the painting, where he’d made those strokes, where we have the colours of the blue of the iris, is a… was a marvellous feeling.

He believed his jailing was purely due to a government conspiracy to bring him down.

We owned… all the Nine Network in WA, we owned a lot of the radio stations, and here we were controlling the newspapers as well. We had the power to change the government if we wanted to change the government. And I think that frightened them.

He got attacked while in prison for three years on fraud charges.

They have a phone system and I moved on and I got into a dormitory block and the phone system had a metal, um, line. Instead of a cord line, it was a metal line, one of these sprung metal lines. And I was on the phone and … he just raced up and grabbed the phone out of my hand, put the wire around my neck and was, you know, choking me to death. And would have killed me, no question about that. And you’re in an area to which, when something like that happens, the officers, even though they’re looking in through glass into the block, they don’t come in, ’cause it’s too risky. They wait till there’s a whole group of them gathered. So, you know, minutes go past before there’s any interaction of them coming in to see what’s going on. And I was very fortunate that one of the other chaps there managed to pull this guy off, but I’ve still got a graze on my face, on the right-hand side, from the graze there and a burn on my neck that hasn’t gone away.

He felt he had a right to forgiveness.

People, as I say, must make their own judgment on forgiveness. And I think that in… It’s important that you do go on and you do have a ‘rest of your life’ and for whatever the reasons, whether I think it was right or it wasn’t right, I stayed and I saw the thing through, I survived the prison, and now I believe the rest of my life is mine. It’s not there for people to, uh… to abuse.