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Mr Robert Oatley AO

1928 – 2016

Robert Oatley AO (1928–2016), businessman, was one of Australia’s most successful wine industry figures. Sydney-born, he acquired a Hunter Valley vineyard, Rosemount Estate, in the late 1960s having previously worked as an exporter of coffee and cocoa beans. Rosemount produced its first vintage in 1974, and over the ensuing decades Oatley built the winery into Australia’s largest family-owned wine producer, the company having a value of $1.4 billion when it was sold to Southcorp Wines in 2001. The Oatley family re-entered the wine business in 2006 with the establishment of Oatley Wines. In 2003, he purchased Hamilton Island and redeveloped it. A keen sailor, Oatley was perhaps best-known as the owner of the yacht Wild Oats, which to date has taken line honours a record-breaking eight times in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Ranked Australia’s 34th richest person by Forbes magazine in 2015, Oatley was named an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2014 for his services to the wine and tourism industries and to the sport of yachting, and for his significant philanthropic support of medical research and the visual arts.

A longstanding supporter of the National Portrait Gallery, in 2000 Oatley was instrumental in the acquisition of John Webber’s Captain James Cook RN 1782, enthusiastically contributing funds that enabled the work to be secured for the national collection. In 2007 Oatley built on his contribution to the repatriation of the key portrait of Cook by funding the acquisition of a number of significant items relating to Cook’s voyages for the collection. The portrait of Cook by Webber remains an icon of the collection and forms the centrepiece of displays in the permanent gallery named in Oatley’s honour.

Updated 2016