News People Wild Oats XI owner Bob Oatley dies, aged 87
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Wild Oats XI owner Bob Oatley dies, aged 87

Bob Oatley
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Businessman and owner of Wild Oats XI Bob Oatley has died aged 87, according to staff at his Hamilton Island resort.

Oatley was a giant in Australian winemaking, tourism and yachting and is survived by his wife and two children.

“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 from his Hamilton Island resort told AAP.

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Mr Oatley was named as 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.

The billionaire owner of eight-times Sydney-Hobart line honours winner Wild Oats XI, 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.

bob oatley
Mr Oatley was worth an estimated $910 million AUD. Photo: Getty

By the mid-1980s his wines were being poured into glasses all over the world. He will be remembered as a pioneer of the industry in the Hunter Valley.

After more than 30 years producing wine, in 2001 Mr Oatley sold the 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, spending more than $350 million revamping it into a world-class luxury resort.

It attracted the likes of Oprah Winfrey and won 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 net 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.

Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore John Cameron said Mr Oatley was a giant of the sport.

“Eight line honours wins in the Rolex Sydney Hobart yacht race,” he said. “Twice he got the triple, line honours and broke the record both times.

“A record which still stands as far as the time to compete the race is concerned so a terrible loss to our sport.”

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

Mr Oatley was a descendent of convict James Oatley, who became Australia’s first clockmaker.

– with AAP, ABC

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