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Alan Bond
, 1985

by Rennie Ellis

type C photograph (sheet: 62.0 cm x 47.0 cm, image: 29.1 cm x 43.9 cm)

Alan Bond (1938-2015), entrepreneur, was born in London and came to Australia in 1950. After working as a signwriter and building his fortune in property development, he was named Australian of the Year in 1978, five years before he became a national hero by winning the 1983 America’s Cup for Australia. Two years later his Bond Corporation acquired the giant Castlemaine Tooheys beer empire, giving him control of more than 40% of Australia’s beer market. In 1987 he made international headlines by purchasing Van Gogh’s Irises for a world record $54 million; the same year, he bought Channel Nine from Kerry Packer for $1 billion, and built the striking Bond Center in Hong Kong. The university he funded, Bond University on the Gold Coast, Queensland, opened in 1989. Having become the most popular of the Australian magnates of the 1980s, Bond was declared bankrupt in 1992, and gaoled in 1997. His biographer Paul Barry wrote that ‘what he did in the 1980s and the 1990s was a disgrace to this country and brought us into disrepute throughout the world’. In 2008, eight years after his release and having developed overseas interests in oil and diamond mining, he bounded back into the list of the two hundred wealthiest people in Australia.

Rennie Ellis photographed Bond on the day of his daughter Susanne’s marriage to New York doctor Armand Leone, which was followed by a stupendously lavish reception at the Bonds’ clifftop home. Susanne’s dress was created by Bruce Oldfield, a favourite designer of Princess Diana’s. As Oldfield made his last refinements, Ellis went across the hall to Bond’s bedroom and photographed the tycoon as he sat on the bed watching a Tarzan movie on TV.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2006
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive
Accession number: 2006.62