Solomon Lew (born 22 March 1945) is an Australian businessman. His principal commercial activities involve importing apparel, toys and other goods into Australia from China and investments, mainly in retail companies.

Solomon Lew
Born (1945-03-22) 22 March 1945 (age 77)
Brunswick, Melbourne, Australia
EducationMount Scopus Memorial College
OccupationChairman of Premier Investments
SpouseRose Lew AM (separated)
PartnerRosa Prappas
Children
  • Peter Lew (son)
  • Jacqueline Lew (daughter)
  • Steven Lew (son)
Websitesolomonlew.com.au

As a teenager, Lew supplied dresses to the Myer Emporium in Melbourne using his company Voyager Solo.[1] In 2014 Lew built a ten per cent stake in David Jones Limited after South African retailer Woolworths launched a takeover bid for the department store.[1] Lew was formerly a director then chairman of Coles Myer (now known as the Coles Group) until voted out by shareholders. He was also involved in an attempt to resurrect Ansett airlines with Lindsay Fox following its collapse in September 2001. In 2008 he returned to the board of his public company, Premier Investments, and became its chairman.

In 2016 he became the first Australian to be inducted into the World Retail Hall of Fame, which recognises the lifetime achievements of retail "legends".[2]

In 2021, the Financial Review assessed Lew's net worth as A$4.37 billion;[3] Forbes assessed his net worth as US$1.46 billion in 2019;[4] and Lew was ranked 33rd on The Australian's Richest 250 List.[5]

Business careerEdit

Yannon transactionEdit

While Chairman of Coles Myer, Lew involved Coles Myer in a deal with a private company Yannon Pty Ltd which ultimately lost Coles Myer A$18 million. An internal Coles investigation endorsed Lew's claim that he knew nothing of the deal, and a subsequent four-year investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) ended with no charges being pursued.[6][7]

Alan Cameron, ASIC chairman at the time, acknowledged during the press conference to announce the outcome of the investigation that: "It is worth saying that the original loss suffered by Coles Myer was about A$18 million, and the recovery made by Coles Myer was in excess of A$12 million."[8] Lew contributed to this 1996 settlement with Coles-Myer.[9] Cameron also said that it was "clearly true" that Lew was not guilty of any breaches of the law. When asked if he believed Lew was innocent, Cameron replied: "of course."[8]

ABC Radio's PM program described the transaction:[7]

"The Yannon deal was an undisclosed indemnity given by Coles-Myer to a shelf company called Yannon set up by CS First Boston. It bought shares in a company called Premier, a major shareholder in Coles-Myer controlled by then Executive Chair of Coles, Solomon Lew. It guaranteed Yannon against any losses in the share deal, eventually costing Coles $18 million. Coles retrieved $12 million in a later agreement between itself, Mr Lew and with other parties. The funding of the buying of its own shares, the apparent involvement of the chairman and the lack of disclosure raised serious governance issues for Coles-Myer, and ended with the replacement of almost the entire board of directors and the withdrawal of significant shareholder support."

When Coles Myer's chief financial officer, Philip Bowman, resigned and revealed the details of the transaction it brought a great deal of unwanted public attention to Lew. Bowman's revelations prompted an investigation into whether the Yannon transaction broke the Corporations Law or other laws that lasted five years and gathered a quarter of a million pages of documents and twelve thousand pages of evidence. The ASIC recommended criminal prosecution against Lew in its brief, although the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, who had the final decision, decided not to proceed with criminal charges against Lew, Lew's advisers, or those working within Coles Myer. The Chairman of ASIC told the ABC:

"I think where the community would have had concern is if the community had felt that a transaction was beyond investigation in some way. This transaction was not beyond investigation."

The Etiket transactionEdit

Another controversial business transaction involving Lew related to a single purpose trust called Etiket. The beneficiaries were Lew's family. The trust was used to acquire 2% of Coles Myer in 1989, at a time of high interest rates. Lew offered competing explanations for what happened next. But the end result was that the Coles Myer shares were assigned to Premier Investments for an A$8 million profit. A Queen's Counsel who investigated the transaction said:[10]

Well, he very simply bought them for $8.20. There was no substantial movement of the share price, but he sold them to Premier for $9.00. He made 80 cents a share, or $8 million, in four weeks.

TESNAEdit

Lew and Lindsay Fox formed a consortium to acquire Ansett Airlines after it had an Administrator appointed. They sought and obtained the exclusive right to negotiate to purchase the airline. They obtained the agreement of various stakeholders in the airline, including trade union members and their representatives. Greg Combet, the secretary of the ACTU said Lew had breached 'repeated commitments'.[11] During this time spent negotiating, the administrators had been persuaded to continue to operate the airline despite heavy losses which reduced the amount ultimately available to creditors, which included employees owed entitlements. Lew and Fox had committed to take on A$183 million of these entitlement obligations if they acquired the company. These commitments and their statements that they could and would proceed with the acquisition led the trade unions with members involved in the business to support the bid. The consequence of Lew's withdrawal was much embarrassment for the ACTU, which had strongly supported the Lew-Fox bid.

Coles Myer boardEdit

In September 2002, a resolution to remove Lew from the Board of Coles Myer was successful after Stan Wallis, the Chairman of the company, campaigned for Lew's removal. Wallis successfully lobbied major institutional shareholders, including insurance companies, banks and large investment firms to take the rare action of voting against an incumbent director. Prior to the vote, Lew campaigned heavily spending an estimated A$10 million campaigning for his re-election focusing mainly on smaller shareholders.[12][13] He was successful in obtaining millions of proxies but they were ultimately insufficient.[citation needed]

Premier Investments and Just GroupEdit

In March 2008, Lew returned to the public company stage, rejoining the board of the listed company Premier Investments, as its chairman. At the same time, Premier announced a takeover offer for Just Group, one of Australia's largest retailers which owns Just Jeans, Portmans, Dotti, Peter Alexander, Jay Jays, Smiggle and Jacqui E. Analysts criticised the offer for being too low and comprising less than half in cash. In publicly explaining his offer, Lew said Just Group was trading worse than had been disclosed to the investment community.

Premier's stationery brand Smiggle was profitable in its first year in the United Kingdom after launching in 2015.[14] The brand was subsequently launched in Hong Kong and Malaysia in 2016.[15] Smiggle's first global flagship store was opened on London's Oxford Street in 2018, along with the first concession outlet in department store Selfridges.[16]

Personal lifeEdit

Lew is Jewish and is a member of the Chabad House synagogue in Malvern, Victoria.[17][18] In 2014 Lew separated from Rosie Lew AM, his wife of forty years.[19] Their three children are active in the Lew's business empire including Peter, who is the chairman of P Lew Investment Group and the owner of the BrandBank Group of Companies. He is married to Ally Lew and has three children; Steven, who married Sarah Nowoweiski in 2003 and filed for divorce in 2011.[18] They have two children;[20] and Jacqueline, who married Adam Priester in 1999 and filed for divorce in 2011.[18] They have four children.

In 1999, each of his children were gifted A$170 million from the "Lew Custodian Trust".[21]

Net worthEdit

In May 2021 The Australian Financial Review estimated Lew's net worth as A$4.37 billion as published in the Financial Review Rich List;[3] and in January 2019 his net worth was estimated by Forbes Asia as US$1.90 billion as published in the list of Australia's 50 richest people.[4][22][23] As of May 2021, Lew was one of ten Australians who have appeared in every Financial Review Rich List, or its predecessor, the BRW Rich 200, since it was first published in 1984.[3][24]

Year Financial Review
Rich List
Forbes
Australia's 50 richest
Rank Net worth
A$
Rank Net worth
US$
2014[25][26]
2015[27][28]
2016[27][29]
2017[30] 19 $2.38 billion  
2018[31] 23   $2.55 billion  
2019[32][4] 24   $2.83 billion   28 $1.46 billion  
2020[33] 24   $3.72 billion  
2021[3] 23   $4.37 billion  
Legend
Icon Description
  Has not changed from the previous year
  Has increased from the previous year
  Has decreased from the previous year

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Low, Catie (23 September 2016). "Solomon Lew: the billionaire behind Smiggle, FCUK and Country Road". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  2. ^ "Retail allows people to dream, Lew says". SBS News. 14 April 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Bailey, Michael; Sprague, Julie-anne (27 May 2021). "The 200 richest people in Australia revealed". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  4. ^ a b c "#28: Solomon Lew". Australia's 50 Richest 2019. Forbes Asia. 15 January 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  5. ^ "Australia's Richest 250". The Australian.
  6. ^ Stevens, Matthew (26 April 2008). "Lew pressured to reveal what he knows". The Australian. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  7. ^ a b Snowdon, Karon (6 January 2000). "No charges to be laid over Yannon affair". PM. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Radio National. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 February 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "PM - Yannon affair players remain silent". Abc.net.au. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  10. ^ "ABC Radio National - Background Briefing: 22 October 1995 - Coles-Myer". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 20 August 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2008.
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 July 2008. Retrieved 26 April 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Lew puts mouse where his money is". The Age. 18 October 2002. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Wisdom of Solomon". Workers Online. Labor Council of NSW (159). 1 November 2002. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  14. ^ "Solomon Lew says success of Smiggle down to good planning". The Australian Financial Review. 21 September 2015.
  15. ^ "Pencils and PJs the secret of Solomon Lew's Premier Investments success". The Australian Financial Review. 18 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Solomon Lew makes Smiggle a global growth option". The Australian Financial Review. 20 September 2018.
  17. ^ Houston, Cameron (25 September 2011). "Synagogue row led to Lew rumble". The Age.
  18. ^ a b c Houston, Cameron (15 April 2012). "Fractured dynasty bids for privacy – Solomon Lew is taking risky action to protect his family's fortune from the former partners of his children". Sydney Morning Herald.
  19. ^ "Retail king Solomon Lew and wife Rosie end marriage". The Australian Financial Review. 12 February 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  20. ^ "Bitter spat as Lew fights for privacy and his fortune". The Age. 15 April 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  21. ^ Murphy, Padraic; Hardfield, Shelley (27 December 2011). "Billionaires Solomon and Rose Lew fight to save family fortune". Herald Sun.
  22. ^ "Forbes Billionaires". The Australian.
  23. ^ D'Angelo Fisher, Leo (25 May 2011). "Gift of Gifting a Hard Sell". BRW.
  24. ^ Thomson, James (22 May 2013). "Celebrating 30 years of the Rich 200". BRW Rich 200. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  25. ^ "BRW Rich 200 list 2014: 34. Bruce Gordon". BRW. Sydney. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  26. ^ "2014 Australia's 50 Richest". Forbes Asia. January 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  27. ^ a b "BRW rich list topped by Harry Triguboff, Gina Rinehart slips to fourth". ABC News. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  28. ^ "2015 Australia's 50 Richest". Forbes Asia. March 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  29. ^ "2016 Australia's 50 Richest". Forbes Asia. January 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  30. ^ Stensholt, John, ed. (25 May 2017). "Financial Review Rich List 2017". Financial Review. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  31. ^ Stensholt, John (25 May 2018). "2018 AFR Rich List: Who are Australia's richest people?". The Australian Financial Review. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  32. ^ Bailey, Michael (30 May 2019). "Australia's 200 richest people revealed". The Australian Financial Review. Nine Publishing. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  33. ^ Bailey, Michael; Sprague, Julie-anne (30 October 2020). "The full list: Australia's wealthiest 200 revealed". The Australian Financial Review. Nine Publishing. Retrieved 31 October 2020.

External linksEdit