John Elliott (businessman)
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John Dorman Elliott (born 3 October 1941) is an Australian businessman and former president of the Liberal Party, and former president of Carlton Football Club. He has frequently provoked controversy due to his political affiliations, his brushes with the law, and his abrasive personal style.
He completed his secondary schooling at Carey Baptist Grammar School, in Kew. He then attended the University of Melbourne and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) degree and later completed a Master of Business Administration degree at Melbourne Business School.
Elliott joined BHP for two years. He then joined global consulting firm McKinsey & Co Inc. and worked in both Australia and United States for six years. In 1972 he acquired control of IXL Ltd, an Australian Stock Exchange listed food manufacturer. From there, he and his team built the company up through a string of acquisitions throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, including Australian corporate icons Elders Limited, an agricultural services concern, and Carlton and United Breweries now part of the Foster's Brewing Group. The acquisition of Courage Breweries in the U.K, followed by Carling O'Keefe Breweries in Canada, and U.K based Grand Metropolitan Breweries, made the Group the forth largest Brewer in the world. During this time he was also a high-profile President of the Carlton Football Club (1983-2002) and Federal President of the Liberal Party. He was an effective advocate for the club on a range of issues, and during his presidency the club won two VFL (now AFL) premierships.
In 1985 Elliott's company - by then called Elders IXL - played an important role as a white knight in fending off Robert Holmes à Court's attempted takeover of diversified mining company BHP. Elders bought a large share in BHP which blocked Holmes à Court's attempt to take control. As a result, Elliott joined the BHP board. He then attempted a management buyout of Elders, but this was unsuccessful and left his A$80 million fortune considerably reduced.
Subsequently, the National Crime Authority (NCA) investigated a foreign exchange transaction undertaken by Elders. Elliott was cleared of criminal charges. He accused the NCA of a vendetta inspired by the then Labor government and motivated by his position as Liberal Party President. He later launched civil action for damages, which was ultimately unsuccessful.
He has also been a director of a number of public companies including BHP, National Mutual Life Association, Bridge Oil Limited and North Limited. Elliott has been a member of the Liberal Party for over thirty years. He has held positions in the party including Federal President (1987-1990), Federal Treasurer, State Treasurer and Vice President in Victoria. He is past Chairman of the 500 Club, which he formed in the 1980s, and has been the biggest donor to the Liberal Party in Victoria.
His various political involvements led to him being caricatured in Rubbery Figures, a satirical rubber puppet series that screened in Australia during the late 80s. He was depicted holding a can of Elders IXL, while belching or exclaiming "pig's arse".
In 1990, Elliott was a vocal supporter of the Multifunction Polis (MFP), a controversial concept to build in Australia a new technology city with a population of 100,000. At the time, the leader of the Liberal Party, Andrew Peacock, was vehemently opposed to the plan, claiming the Multifunction Polis would become an "Asian enclave".
After the 2002 AFL season Elliott was voted out as President of the Carlton Football Club, a position he had held for two decades. The club was found to have breached the Australian Football Club salary cap conditions which prompted almost million dollars in fines and other penalties. In a move some thought to be ungracious, given his long service, his name was removed from the club signs at its home ground, Optus Oval, Princes Park.
In January 2005 he declared himself bankrupt, to be discharged in July 2008.
He has been a regular guest panellist on the ABC program Q&A and in 2010 appeared on the televised Dick Smith population debate, where his vision to harness Northern Australia’s excess rainfall via pipeline to the Murray-Darling headwaters in Queensland received wide support. He is featured on talkback radio station 3AW with his son Tom every Friday and previously (2012) on the ABC's Agony Uncles.
Elliott was inaugural Chairman of the Committee for Melbourne, and is a past director of the foundation of the University of Melbourne Business School. In September 2015 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the school.
He was divorced from the late Lorraine Elliott, a former Victorian state parliamentarian for the Liberal Party. They have three children. The eldest is Tom Elliott (born 1967), an investment banker and radio and television presenter. His daughter Caroline Elliott, Vice President of The Liberal Party in Victoria. He also has two children from his second marriage, which also ended in divorce. His second wife Amanda Elliott later became the first female Chairperson in Victorian Racing Club's 153 year history.
Known for his "eccentric, crass and often controversial style of business and politics" Elliot is also a long term cigarette smoker, and claimed to be considering running for the 2016 Australian Senate on a platform of "Smokers Rights"
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