The door looks to have finally closed on the spectacular and disastrous career of corporate impresario and convicted fraudster Alan Bond.
The final chapter in Mr Bond’s infamous legacy has come to an end following the signing of a $1.9 billion settlement over the last of his companies, Bell Group.
It was a deal 24 years in the making.
The settlement means a range of creditors, most importantly the Insurance Commission of Western Australia (ICWA), can divide up the $1.9 billion in play between them.
ICWA is set to get the biggest share, between $600 and $700 million.
Mr Bond was the highest of the high-flying entrepreneurs that typified the 1980s, and consequently crashed to Earth hardest.
What you should know about Alan Bond
- Born in England, he was a “ten pound pom” [assisted British migrant] and signwriter who made a fortune in property and shares
- In 1983 his yacht, Australia II, won the America’s Cup using Aussie-designed winged-keel technology. The victory inspired a celebrating PM Bob Hawke to remark “any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum”
- He bought Channel Nine from Kerry Packer for $1 billion, a crazy boom price, inspiring Packer to observe “You only get one Alan Bond in your lifetime and I’ve had mine.” He then pledged to buy Nine back at one-third of the price, which he did
- After a massive stockmarket crash in 1987, Mr Bond bought fellow WA entrepreneur Robert Holmes à Court’s Bell companies and siphoned off more than $1 billion for which, among other things, he was ultimately jailed
- In 1987 he bought Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises for $54 million, then a record for a painting. But he never paid auctioneers Sotheby’s and it was repossessed
- His Bond Brewing company eventually owned major breweries in Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and the US. When he went broke in 1992 owing $1.8 billion an English comedian remarked he had done the impossible twice; taking home the America’s Cup for the first time in the race’s 132-year history and “going broke selling beer to Australians”.
Bond’s ghost fights on
Mr Bond died in 2015 but was still fighting with his creditors for his money.
The settlement deal announced on Monday has its origins in the early 1990s when bankers to Bell Group – which he bought in the late 1980s – realised it was teetering on the edge and took its assets.
Those bankers included NAB, Commonwealth and Westpac, and the court found they had taken the funds without providing any new money themselves and knew Mr Bond’s companies were on the brink of bankruptcy when they acted.
Liquidators and creditors fought them, eventually winning back $1.7 billion in 2013, which was passed to Bell’s liquidators.
But legislation passed by the WA government to help dole out the proceeds of the case finished up being rolled in the High Court despite the support of then-treasurer Joe Hockey.
Now, three years on from the High Court decision, resolution has finally been reached.
But typically for a deal with the Bond name attached its complexities continue, with agreements still to be made with foreign banks in foreign courts.
Some of these will be “tricky”, a lawyer associated with the case told The New Daily.
“Settlement could be affected in 12 months if those approvals are obtained and other actions are completed in the time contemplated in the Deed,” the WA government said in a statement.
“The Bell litigation has long been a distraction, and consumed an inordinate amount of time and resources for all parties,” said WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt.
Eminent historian Geoffrey Blainey said “in the years to come Mr Bond might come to be seen as one of the symbols of the 80s when economic liberalisation was favourable to ‘go for your life entrepreneurs'”.
“One thing you can give him credit for is bringing together small mining leases in Kalgoorlie to form ‘the big pit’, which revitalised the area as a gold mining centre,” Professor Blainey said.
ICWA has spent $288 million funding the liquidators and lawyers fighting the case.
The ATO will also get a payout from the deal if it is completed.