Saturday, 6 June 2015

Was Alan Bond a

sports hero or a corporate villain or both?
He was actually named as Australian of the Year in 1978 - along with Galarrwuy Yunupingu. As far as I can work out the reason for that honour was solely because he put up most of the money for the America's Cup challenge. Oh yes, Australia once won the America's Cup. Much of the money came from "Bondy" - as he was widely known. 
His business dealings led to bankruptcy and a conviction for fraud. He served four  years in prison - and then bounced back to the point where he could have been described as "financially very comfortable". He divorced and remarried. His second wife committed suicide after battling with depression. He also lost a child to an overdose but that was considered an accident rather than suicide.
He was an odd man in many ways, a man who left school early and yet leaves a private university (Bond University) in his name after  helping to fund the beginnings of it. He said he had "over-reached" himself  when asked about his bankruptcy. Perhaps he had. Thousands of people lost money because of his actions.
But Australia's love affair with sport is so great that he kept his "Australian of the Year" title and, reporting on his death last night, much was made of the America's Cup win. It didn't matter that the real work of winning the cup was done by the designer of the boat and the crew who sailed it. Bond put the money up. Bond was seen as the hero. The collapse of his empire was mentioned and passing reference was made to those who gained  from his activities (Kerry Packer) and those who lost (Sotheby's). The university was not mentioned.
All this surely says something about the way people in Australia view business and the wealthy. It says something that merely providing financial support for sport is considered more newsworthy than providing some of the financial support which began a university.
I didn't admire "Bondy" for his support of sport or for his business dealings but, if I had ever met him, I would have wanted to thank him for his contribution to education. That will do the greater good.

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