8:00pm – Thursday, February 23 on ABC1
From the moment he burst onto the stage in the 1970s, dashing corporate raider Robert Holmes � Court captured the public’s imagination with his brilliance and daring. He was the enigmatic and dazzling outsider with a romantic, hazy Rhodesian past – admired, feared and loathed in almost equal measures.
With his loyal wife Janet by his side, Robert became Australia’s first billionaire. He created a mammoth financial empire that, at the time of the 1987 stock market crash, was worth two billion dollars. But the crash nearly destroyed him. He retreated from the public eye, and set about making back his billions, something he almost achieved. But the effort literally killed him. Robert Holmes � Court dropped dead of a massive heart attack on Father’s Day 1990. He was just 53.
In a typically unpredictable move, Robert stunned the world by leaving no will. Instead, his widow Janet and their four children would have to decipher a tangled web of assets and debts – and determine who would run the family empire. Over the next twenty years, the question of what to do in Robert’s absence almost broke them apart.
In the immediate aftermath, Janet Holmes � Court scrambled to pick up the pieces. Thrust into the limelight as Australia’s richest woman, she would become one of the nation’s most admired leaders.
But it was a trickier story for her children – and her eldest and youngest sons in particular. Peter, the eldest, was a 21-year-old student at Oxford when his father died. He would find himself struggling to take the reins, with enormous shoes to fill. He’s seen the mantle passed to his youngest brother Paul, who finally is on the verge of assuming complete control of the empire his father founded.
Today, all three are still trying to figure out why Robert left things as he did.