The two-night stopover was the third visit to South Australia by the ship, which circumnavigates the globe year round, following an itinerary voted on by its residents. Sidney Kidman's great-grandson Will Abel Smith had worked in the family business for three decades. Nic Walker. With the trophy asset of S. The dinner was to celebrate the company's future under the control of Rinehart, who owns at least one of The World's exclusive apartments.
She had spoken enthusiastically about her commitment to preserving the Kidman heritage and brand. However, it was a bittersweet evening for one of the guests, Will Abel Smith. The year-old is a great-grandson of Sir Sidney Kidman , the cattleman who founded the eponymous business in , going on to build it into Australia's biggest pastoral company. Abel Smith had worked in the family business for three decades and, as livestock and marketing manager, was the only descendant still on the payroll at the time of the dinner.
His connection to the Kidman heritage was strong; at his home in Adelaide, a Hugh Sawrey painting of Sidney Kidman hangs above the dining room fireplace. One of Australia's most enduring family-owned pastoral companies, S. For years it had survived drought, disease, rising and falling cattle prices, and an ugly split within the family following Kidman's death in At the time of its sale, S. Many of those family members had only a tenuous link to the colossal pastoral group. Rinehart paid handsomely for the chain of nine cattle stations but in the back of Abel Smith's mind was the nagging question of what might have been.
What if he'd been able to overcome generations of intra-family hostility — and years of bitter boardroom power plays leading up to the sale — to keep the cattle empire in family hands? Abel Smith says he had a plan to transform the pastoral group to keep it in the family. Other Kidman descendants greet this suggestion with disbelief.
Indeed, some members of his extended family say he was behind the epic struggle to sell S. The sale brought to a head Abel Smith's involvement with the company he loved. He resigned in April to manage his family investments, rather than take up a new role at S. Despite his nostalgia and regret at not being able to keep the company in the family, Abel Smith acknowledges the sale brought shareholders a greater price than he would have been able to achieve via his plan.
He wishes only the best for the new owners. Will Abel Smith acknowledges the sale brought shareholders a greater price than he would have been able to achieve via his plan. A bronze bust of Kidman occupies a corner of the reception, while black-and-white photos of the man many called the "Cattle King" hang on the wall. A nearby hallway is lined with oil portraits of Kidman and his family. Abel Smith admits that he was one of the main drivers of the sale.
When the change didn't come — I thought the sale was the best way forward. His decision to join the sell side was cemented after he was overlooked to become the company's chairman in November For the first time in the pastoral company's history, the family shareholders had decided to appoint a chairman who wasn't from the Kidman lineage.
Abel Smith's cousin, John Ayers jnr, who had served on the board for 40 years and is another great-grandson of Sidney Kidman, passed the chairmanship to John Crosby, a very capable outsider. John [Ayers] was pretty determined not to give me the role; we never got along.
At that point I knew and I turned to the sell side and pushed hard from then on and finally got there. Gina Rinehart owns two-thirds of S. Abel Smith's mother, Anne Kidman, was passionate about the business, he says, but in the years before her death in , she too wanted to sell. She didn't like how it was being run. John Ayers jnr, like his cousin Abel Smith, is a pleasant, engaging and smart man. Both are widely respected in pastoral circles and are part of Adelaide's establishment.
Ayers, 75, says Abel Smith was not appointed chairman because "the family made a decision". There's no point in discussing any of the issues that may or may not have occurred," Ayers says. It just makes stories out of nothing. What I personally might feel is nothing to do with anyone else. Ayers guards his privacy fiercely and has little to do with the media. It's a trait shared by much of his extended family but is in sharp contrast to his ancestor, Sidney Kidman, who courted the press here and abroad, with articles about him appearing in London's The Times and T he New York Times.
Australia says no to a Chinese-led group's bid for the iconic S. As shareholder numbers grew over the decades it became more difficult to keep a lid on matters. History is littered with examples of family businesses failing to survive beyond the second or third generations, either from lack of interest or talent among the descendants, or because of jealousy and avarice over the fortunes created by their fathers or grandfathers.
It probably had a bit more in it if family could have come together on things but it didn't. My view is definitely these old, low-return family companies only survive if family revolve around the business and the business revolves around the family.
We abdicated our responsibilities and became a minority on our own board. Family was very much dissuaded, discouraged from working here. I had cousins who would have loved to have come in. Ultimately, it broke the chain. The family just drifted away and people started to think about what options there were. I represented a few people who were sellers. The Kidman properties are located in remote parts of Australia, where the air is dry-roasted and the skies big; where the dust makes your skin and hair feel powdery and rough.
It was in these austere parts of the country that Sidney Kidman amassed a portfolio of properties in a chain that spread his risk over different geographies and climates, giving him flexibility when moving his herd to markets. Kidman stock were bred in the north and centre, and fattened in Queensland's Channel Country, where the Georgina and Diamantina rivers and Cooper Creek make up the main river systems.
All our guys run the properties like they own them. Those who work for it are very proud and respectful of the heritage. We've got just the best people out in the bush because of that. Sidney Kidman had a stake in 90 stations covering , square kilometres by the time he died, says Jill Bowen, who authored the definitive account of Sidney Kidman's life, Kidman: The Forgotten King. It's not as big now as it was in his heyday.
He was a world standout. The land holdings of S. The fight would eventually force out Elma, who was married to Sid Reid, the company's managing director. Reid and Walter Kidman differed over who ran the business and the Reids took their share out of the Kidman empire in the form of a sizeable number of properties.
The fractures among the family spread further. Bowen notes in her book that after the stoush Elma and Edna rarely spoke again. It was the same for Edna and Gertie. One family member suggests in the book that Edna Ayers was jealous of Sid Reid and happy for him to be out of the way to enable her son, John Ayers snr, to move into the company's management.
The departure of the Reids left three family shareholding blocks, the Ayers, Clovers and Kidmans. Descendants of Gertie mostly resided in Britain. London-based Joanna Clover retired from the Kidman board in December , appointing in her place a fourth-generation family member. It's understood to have been a wrenching decision for her to agree to sell the business.
A cousin of Abel Smith and John Ayers, and a great-granddaughter of Sidney Kidman, she declines to comment: "I have no wish to discuss the Kidman sale. The make-up of S. The federal government made the acquisition conditional on the divestment of the cattle property Anna Creek, whose land overlaps with the defence-sensitive Woomera Prohibited Area. He's worked for the Chinese government linking private and state companies and in building Chinese investment overseas.
There were more than expressions of interest to buy S. Transport billionaire Lindsay Fox was at one point keen on the company, as was a group of Australian rural families in a consortium called BBHO. But it was the structure of Rinehart's bid, which would keep S. Those majority Chinese bids triggered a harsh public backlash. Australians across politics, business and the general public, including those who'd never heard of S. Voices railed against the potential sale of this part of 'Straya to foreigners, code for "the Chinese".
Talkback radio, social media, blogs and the traditional media were awash with it. My own mum would ring me and start with the line, 'Don, do Australians still own Australia? However, he understood the decision taken by Treasurer Scott Morrison who, following the public outrage, said selling S. Behind Morrison's statement was a government wishing to stymie not only an electoral backlash but the risk of damaging demands for greater protectionism. After the sale, Rinehart said the government's approach "enabled a local Australian company to pay a fair market price and retain Kidman in Australian control".
Manifold observes that these are very difficult decisions for politicians. I think that concern is misplaced. The British have long invested in Australia's beef industry. He founded private equity group Tavistock, which counts among its assets the English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur. Team or Enterprise Premium FT. Pay based on use. Does my organisation subscribe?
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