14/03/2006 - 21:00

No place like home for Wyllie

14/03/2006 - 21:00


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Bill Wyllie is one of Western Aust-ralia’s success stories, perhaps most notably because we got him back.

Bill Wyllie is one of Western Aust-ralia’s success stories, perhaps most notably because we got him back.

Mr Wyllie, who passed away on Monday morning after a long battle with cancer (a fight that began in 1993 with the discovery of bowel cancer), was one of those rare high achievers who made their fortunes elsewhere but decided to come back and re-establish themselves in their home town.

Perhaps it was the scale of his wealth, measured at as much as $450 million, that made him stand out so much in Perth, where he did not shy away from involving himself in high-profile investments such as Burswood, Multiplex and the convention centre.

In his public life, Mr Wyllie was an unusual combination. He enjoyed showing off his wealth yet, at the same time, he was considered a generous man who gave considerable amounts to charities and foundations.

Much of that generosity was directed at WA’s medical establish-ment, which has been his lifeline for more than the past decade. His donations have helped a world-class sector stay ahead of the pack in many respects.

I only met Mr Wyllie on a couple of occasions, the first being the most memorable.

When I had the opportunity to interview him extensively in 1997, Mr Wyllie was not the household name he was today, having kept a relatively low profile compared with his heady days as a corporate doctor in Asia.

It was a great interview, assisted by the fact that he felt quite comfortable showing off his house – including a large collection of cars in an underground garage – in a way that was both gracious and unpretentious.

While recounting his many stories of corporate turnarounds he still managed to attribute luck to his fortunate circumstances. Luck is something I’ve found that few successful business people get to encounter in a big way more than once. I’d generally call it good management.

I also recall Mr Wyllie was keen to highlight how much meeting his wife, Rhonda, had changed his life; in fact, it was a catalyst to shifting from the highlife as a taipan of Hong Kong (as the conglomerate chiefs were known) to the relatively simple life in Perth.

Mr Wyllie told me it was meeting her during the mid-1980s, and his subsequent decision to get married, wind up his global business empire and return to Perth, that left him cashed up in 1987 when the world’s stock markets collapsed.

I for one am glad of that decision to come back here. WA isn’t big enough for everyone to stay, but we can handle having our success return and make the most of what we have to offer.

Has Perth grown up?

HAS anyone noticed that there’s been an airline collapse?

The demise of OzJet may have diminished impact on Perth, because it hadn’t yet started flying here, but the fact that any air carrier can fail and not cause even a ripple here indicates the capital city and the region itself have finally gotten big enough to sustain some competition.

OzJet wasn’t a second airline to fly here. Technically, it wasn’t even the third. Instead it was going to compete head-to-head with Virgin, Qantas and Qantas subsidiary Jetstar.

Right now, people flying from WA have more options and cheaper prices than any other sustained period, relatively speaking.

A booming economy and a population that is finally getting the scale needed to make the economics work means we may never again need to get our hopes up for another carrier to create the competition needed to keep tickets at healthy prices.

Remember Compass? How we wanted it to succeed.

Remember Ansett? What a catastrophe that was.

I still think an open-skies policy might benefit WA travellers by allowing international carriers to stopover here and take domestic passengers. But that’s only my opinion.

In the meantime, ticket prices may seem high compared with those for other domestic routes, but that’s the price you pay for isolation – just ask those who live in regional WA about the prices they face compared with the rest of us in the city. Sometimes it’s worth paying to keep your distance.

Anyway, enjoy the current climate and let’s hope the ride is a long one, as Perth continues to grow beyond the small city status that meant it was ignored by outside business and investors for so long.


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