Fraudster and America's Cup legend Alan Bond dies

Alan Bond has died in Perth. He was 77.

In a statement his family said “his body finally gave out after heroic efforts” from medical staff at Fiona Stanley hospital, where he was in an induced coma following open heart surgery at another hospital earlier this week.

A hospital spokesperson said: “We’re not going to talk about Mr Bond’s medical care except to say that all efforts were made.”

Bond backed Australia’s successful America’s Cup campaign in 1983 and was later jailed for four years over a billion-dollar corporate fraud operation, was one of the nation’s best-known business figures. In recent years he had been involved in mining companies and spent his time between Perth and London.

“He really did experience the highs and lows of life. But to us he was just dad,” his son John said outside the hospital.

Speaking about how the family stayed in contact despite Bond and his wife Eileen divorcing in 1992, John added: “Mum and dad never broke their connection even though he could be very infuriating to her.”

“We only half joked to our friends that you had to have a five year business plan when you met him,” he said.

Eileen flew from London this week to be with him after the heart surgery complications, telling the media before she flew out that the operation “had not gone too well and we are all hoping and praying”.

Alan Bond and wife Diana attend a fundraising charity event in 2005. Photo: Getty Images

Here’s the full statement from the family:

Dad passed away this morning. His body finally gave out after the heroic efforts of everyone involved in the Intensive Care Unit at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

He never regained consciousness from his surgery on Tuesday and has been on life support since that time.

To a lot of people, Dad was a larger than life character who started with nothing and did so much. He really did experience the highs and lows of life.

To us however, he was just Dad. A father who tried to be the best Dad he could.

He was also Pop to eight grandchildren and hadn’t yet received a nickname as a great grandfather.

Mum and Dad were always great soul mates who never broke their connection, even though he could be very infuriating to her. She is very sad that she did not get back to see him one last time although they were able to have dinner together just recently in London.

Dad also loved Dianna very much and missed her greatly in these past few years.

Dad was vitally interested in everything that we did with that ever inquiring mind of his. We only half joked to our friends you had to have a five year business plan ready when you met him.

We will all miss him very much.

Dad had a great influence on many people and we are heartfelt in our thanks for all the kind messages of support we have received.

We do hope that we can now have time as a family to grieve and we would appreciate some privacy in this regard.

Alan Bond and US sailor Dennis Conner. Photo: Getty Images

In the lead up to his passing Bond split his time between Perth and London.

Bond was born in 1938 and grew up in London’s Hammersmith district. In 1950, at the age of 12, he emigrated to Australia with his parents and older sister Geraldine.

He began his career as a signwriter and in 1959, at the age of 21, formed what would become the Bond Corporation.

Bond found fame after he began bankrolling challenges for the America’s Cup. In 1978 he was selected as Australian of the Year, together with Galarrwuy Yunupingu.

When Bond achieved the impossible and lifted the America’s Cup, ending 132 years of American dominance, he changed the national psyche.

Bondy was the battler billionaire, one of us, shoving it up the establishment big time, the Perth signwriter with a defiant streak that made him a corporate giant in the brash 1980s.

He was 34 when he first challenged for the America’s Cup in 1974 with Southern Cross, then Australia, beaten in 1977 by a boat skippered by CNN founder Ted Turner. Australia II was his fourth attempt following more than a decade of collaboration with yacht designer Ben Lexcen in an era when the race rules insisted on national fidelity to the design, build and crewing of the boats.

Bond also brought showmanship and overt psychological warfare to the challenge, to the much-enjoyed annoyance of the New York Yacht Club, from the boxing kangaroo flag to Men At Work’s “Down Under” blaring out from speakers on Australia II’s accompanying tender boat, and the skirt around the “secret” keel, memorably revealed when Bond “conducted” the yacht’s lifting following the historic win.

Bond and former PM Bob Hawke. Photo: Getty Images

His actions inspired some of the nation’s most memorable lines: from then-PM Bob Hawke declaring on the morning that Australia II won the America’s Cup that “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum” to fellow billionaire Kerry Packer’s “You only get one Alan Bond in your lifetime, and I’ve had mine” when he sold Channel 9 to Bond in 1987 for $1.05 billion (including $800 million), then ended up back in control of the network three years later via a 37% stake in Bond Media.

Incidentally, his America’s Cup challenges followed in the footsteps of Packer’s father, Sir Frank, from whom Bond bought three challengers in 1970.

Notoriously, Bond then added “I don’t recall” and “I just can’t remember” to the legal lexicon during memory loss difficulties at his company’s 1994 bankruptcy hearings.

His initial success came from property development in an era when Perth was truly the wild west. He got into brewing in 1981 when he bought the Swan Brewery for $164 million, with the slick black cans going national, along with a celebrity endorsed ad campaign – artist Ken Done and golfer Greg Norman among them – that declared “They said you’d never make it… but this Swan’s made for you!”

In 1983 he launched the country’s largest corporate takeover, buying Castlemaine Tooheys $1.2 billion and giving him control on around half of Australia’s beer market, with virtual monopolies in New South Wales, Queensland and WA.

Bond Corporation was worth just a quarter of the purchase price at the time.

His business interests extended to other fields such as airships, gold mining and television.

Bond University, established in 1987 when the Parliament of Queensland granted it university status, became Australia’s first private university. Bond Corporation, in a joint venture with Japan’s EIE International, funded the development of the university.
The Alan Cup is hosted annually in Bond’s honour.

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