By Deborah Jackson
Winemaker, businessman, tourism pioneer and yachtsman, Robert ‘Bob’ Oatley, passed away on Sunday at the age of 87 following an illness.
Oatley pioneered winemaking in the Hunter Valley when he established Rosemount Estate in 1969. He went on to sell Rosemount to Southcorp Wines (Treasury Wine Estates) for a reported $1.5 billion, in a merger that would make Southcorp Australia’s largest wine company.
Oatley is credited with placing Australian wine on the global stage, pioneering new wine styles and methods of marketing. He stepped back from the world of wine in 2005, but returned just one year later, launching his eponymous label Robert Oatley Vineyards in Australia and shortly after, in the USA and Europe.
In August 2015, the Oatley family rebranded Robert Oatley Vineyards as Oatley Fine Wine Merchants. The company is chaired by Bob Oatley’s son, Sandy Oatley, with a 40-strong sales team servicing the on- and off-premise around the country.
Bob Oatley’s legacy stretches beyond the mark he made in the wine industry. In 2003, he acquired Hamilton Island, and together with his family, committed significant funds to improving the island’s infrastructure and facilities, transforming it into the world-class and award-winning tourist destination it is today.
He also held a passion for sailing, drawing worldwide attention to the iconic Sydney to Hobart race, with his super-maxi Wild Oats XI, skippered by Mark Richards, which has won line honours a record eight times – but was forced to pull out of this year’s race after suffering storm damage.
In 2014, Oatley was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his distinguished service to the Australian wine and tourism industries, to the sport of yacht racing, and to the community as a supporter of medical research and visual arts organisations.
AHA NSW president Scott Leach paid tribute to Oatley and his achievements in several fields of endeavour over many years.
“All hoteliers have lost a friend today,” he said. “Bob Oatley made a defining contribution to hospitality and tourism in this country over decades.
“He was a man of vision who had the courage of his convictions, which were underpinned by his spirit of philanthropy and love of Australia and his family.
“On behalf of the industry I extend our condolences to the Oatley family.”
The Oatley family released the following statement: “It is with profound sadness the Oatley family announces the passing of Robert Ian Oatley, AO, BEM. Known affectionately to all as Bob, he was a proud and passionate Australian recognised for his outstanding contributions to the Australian wine, tourism, coffee, sailing and thoroughbred horse industries. Bob was also well-recognised as a philanthropist who supported Australian Olympic activities, medical research and the arts.
“Bob is survived by his wife Valerie, his three children, Sandy, Ian and Ros Oatley, seven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
“The Oatley family has been touched by the many kind words and tributes that have already been received from friends, colleagues and the wider Australian community. They thank everyone for their love and condolences.”
Everyone at Intermedia passes our sincere condolences to Bob’s family and friends.
This story first appeared in HM’s sister title The Shout (www.theshout.com.au) and was written by Deborah Jackson, Editor of National Liquor News.