Hamilton Island owner Bob Oatley dies

Hamilton Island owner Bob Oatley dies
By admin

Bob Oatley, a giant in Australian winemaking, tourism and yachting, has died, aged 87.

Mr Oatley, who pioneered winemaking in the Hunter Valley and laid the foundations for the global Oatley Wines empire, diversified the family-run business into tourism in 2003 when he bought the Hamilton Island resort.

He also put his successful stamp on the yachting world, his 100-foot supermaxi Wild Oats XI taking line honours in the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race eight times, and doing so in record time in 2012.

Staff at Mr Oatley’s Hamilton Island resort on Sunday evening confirmed his death.

“I can confirm that Mr Oatley has passed away but unfortunately because there has been no official announcement from the family, I cannot tell you anything further,” a spokeswoman told AAP.

Mr Oatley was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in the 2014 Australia Day honours for his distinguished service to the Australian wine and tourism industries, to the sport of yacht racing, and to the community as a supporter of medical research and visual arts organisations.

Mr Oatley first began his entrepreneurial success in the 1950s and 60s, when he exported Papua New Guinea’s coffee and cocoa beans around the world.

Then came Mr Oatley’s visionary decision to plant the first vineyards in the Hunter Valley in 1969 at the now famous Rosemount Estate.

By the mid-1980s his wines were being poured into glasses all over the world.

After more than 30 years producing wine, in 2001 Mr Oatley sold the wine company for $1.4 billion to Treasury Wine Estates.

Rather than retire, a year later he launched the Robert Oatley brand in the United States.

In 2003, the Oatley family bought Hamilton Island for $200 million, investing more than $350 million to make it into a world-class luxury resort attracting the likes of Oprah Winfrey and winning Conde Nast Traveller’s Best Resort in the World title.

Mr Oatley was number 34 on the Forbes Australia’s Richest People list with an estimated nett worth of $910 million.

Despite his many great achievements in the business world, it was his yachting victories that Mr Oatley cherished most.

The sweetest of Wild Oats XI’s Sydney to Hobart wins were its record-breaking eighth in 2014, and in 2012, when it broke its own record for the fastest race win at one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds, smashing the record it set seven years earlier.

“It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me in my life,” a jubilant Mr Oatley said as he celebrated the 2012 win.

Mr Oatley leaves behind his wife, Valerie, daughter Ros and sons Ian and Sandy.

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