Peter Holmes a Court
head of White Bull Holdings, chair The Passionate
Group and Humanitarian
Holmes a Court, Russell Crowe and Danielle Spencer
South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Side Story
got to be frank about this. You can buy and sell
and do this because you never made that money,
you got it off your daddy."
Peter Holmes a Court is a former theatre producer,
cattleman and now, with his friend Russell Crowe,
he's looking to buy the South Sydney Rugby League
Club amid opposition that has led to death threats.
Holmes a Court is the son of the late Robert Holmes
a Court, one of the country's most famous and
successful businessmen and many are wondering
if he can match his father's entrepreneurial skill
and flair. Ali Moore was given rare access into
the private world of Holmes a Court for an in-depth
HOLMES A COURT: While my father was still
laying in the hospital room that they took his
body to, people approached me to say that it was
now up to me. I'm very fortunate that my mother
was strong and that she said it need not be that
way, keep doing what you're doing, finish your
education, and that you don't need to feel that
pressure, and I emphasise it was while the body
as they say was still warm.
MOORE: The night Peter Holmes a Court's
famous father died, his eldest son, at 21, chose
to go his own way. What the great corporate raider
had left behind was an empire, but no dynasty.
Why did you walk so comprehensively away?
A COURT: There is a misunderstanding
about my father and the family business. That
he was in some ways setting out to create a family
business. My father never talked about a family
business, a dynasty. He talked about creating
opportunities for his kids.
At 37, Peter Holmes a Court is no different. He's
not building a dynasty. But at an age when his
father had started to deal, he is trying to buy
a football team.
His target: South Sydney, the National Rugby League's
most beleaguered member.
A COURT: The average win is one in four.
Twenty five percent of the times the team has
run out it's won.
He trains with their Juniors,
A COURT: Thank you very much for coming
to this event.
And gives power point presentations to their fans.
A COURT: We are seen as the club of the
outsiders, we don't have the support of the NRL.
We need to change the world's perception of this
What does he have in common with people who have
lived and breathed Souths all their life?
KARAZERIS, South Sydney member: He makes
no bones about not being Souths born and bred
but, I mean, that's not the point here. We've
had people on board who are Souths born and bred
and haven't really produced what we would like
A COURT: I'm not going to be the most
passionate person, I'm not going to be the most
fanatical and know all the statistics. With my
partner we reckon we can make it a winning club
again, simple as that.
His partner is no less than a Hollywood star.
Russell Crowe introduced him to league.
CROWE: We have books that don't balance
and we've got no way in the future, it would seem
from this point, of attracting more money unless
we change our culture.
Together they've (Crowe & Holmes a Court)
put three million dollars on the table for a controlling
stake in the club, and they're working hard to
sell their deal.
A COURT: I have said, under the circumstances,
I would like to be Chairman of this board and
assist the management.
I wouldn't be doing this with Peter unless he's
prepared to take that level of responsibility.
You know, for a guy that grew up with a lot of
privileges and access to money, I've had to give
him lessons in present buying, and much to the
pleasure of his wife I'll tell you that, Peter's
very careful with money and that's what we need
in this club. In terms of how we help the administration
of this club, is by being very aggressive when
it comes to gathering money and being very careful
when it comes to spending money
Crowe met Holmes a Court in America, at the Oscars.
The actor and the businessman, Holmes a Court
was a long way from Australia, and had been for
a long time.
A COURT: I've said I fled.
Is that a bit dramatic?
A COURT: Yeah but it addresses the fact
that I was running away.
Running away to the US, after years as a boarder
at Geelong Grammar.
A COURT: During the eighties when I was
at school in Victoria, my father was doing his
best to torture, broadly, Victorian based companies
whose management needed a shake-up. Sons and relatives
of those people sent their kids to the school
that I went to. I think it also is tough when
any kid has a high profile father, when you stick
out in Australia. I think its tough, its tough
Holmes a Court didn't come back for well over
a decade. It was the one time, where briefly,
in New York and London, he worked for his father.
A COURT: It was my job to be some sort
of junior analyst, with the emphasis on being
junior, in the business over the time I spent
working for him in New York and in London.
And as that time was coming to an end, was there
any pressure to join him at home, in business?
A COURT: There was never any pressure
from either of my parents to come home and join
So the elder son stayed in America and eventually
found success. His theatre company "Back Row Productions"
secured the global rights for "Tap Dogs".
A COURT: I've often said I learned almost
every lesson I've learned either producing small
shows at the Edinburgh Festival or producing "Tap
Dogs" in all the different cities. Each week is
a new business, each week the box office starts
In 2000, he sold up and came home, not to Perth
but to Sydney. And it was then he cut all ties
with his family's business. Selling his stake
in Heytesbury Holdings for a reported 30 million
NEWMAN: I think he's a heck of a lot
like this father.
Alan Newman, the former boss of the diversified
industrial Futuris, was once Robert Holmes a Court's
right hand man. Newman fell out with the father
over corporate strategy, but stayed close to the
There had been a lot of stress I think clearly
in the family structure. I don't think Peter could
see himself being able to run the company the
way he would want to run it, by himself, without
that stress in the structure being retained. In
other words you couldn't get the freedom to do
A COURT: I just saw my desire to pursue
my opportunities differently.
Were there stresses in the family structure —
if I can put it the same way he does?
A COURT: It has been referred to as stresses
in the family structure. Can I assure you that
having your old man drop dead in the middle of
the night is bloody stressful and having a business
that has to be run and managed with kids all over
the world, two kids in America, one in England
and one in Australia is bloody stressful.
Alan Newman's Futuris is owned by the Australian
Agricultural Company, and it was there Peter Holmes
a Court went to try to make his mark as an Australian
He's got qualities that his father in my mind,
difficult to say, probably didn't have. The engagement
of people, the relaxation with people, the ability
to bring out the best in people as opposed to
driven by fear or intellect. He's got it in just
talking quietly to them or bringing them through
the process. He's a natural leader.
Holmes a Court lasted just over three years at
the Australian Agricultural Company, and took
He brought them into the 20th century like a breath
of fresh air.
But not everybody liked his style. Off the record,
some are scathing. Others are more considered,
but still critical. (They say) Holmes a Court
was good at drinking the first half of the champagne
bottle, extracting the fizz, but the detail and
hard yards were not his forte.
A COURT: That's always for other people
to comment on, I do my thing, I try to make it
clear that I speak from the heart, I work on what
I believe in and if that upsets people I move
on. I'm not going to let their concerns about
me bother me, I think the record speaks for itself.
And so Holmes a Court moved on. South Sydney is
now his biggest challenge. And it's a challenge
that's turned nasty.
People have got their heads up their ass they
really have. You've got to be frank about this.
You can buy and sell and do this because you never
made that money, you got it off your daddy, also
the king of hostile takeovers.
The diehards don't want to sell, and Holmes a
Court says he's received threats. There are clear
supporters, the question is, is there enough of
POPS: I'm all for it, all for it.
impressed with him, most impressed with him.
guy, I'm not a voting member but if I were I'd
vote for it, we've got a table full of people
here going to vote for it.
75 percent is what you need, in any corporate
vote 75 percent would be tough.
A COURT: Yeah it's tough
It's a big ask.
A COURT: We make no bones about the fact
what we're proposing is radical, we don't shy
away from that, but this business has got to change
fundamentally if its going to be a winning team
Holmes a Court has another project in Sydney,
again with Russell Crowe.
A COURT: Russell said to me, 'do you
know that building in East Sydney?' And I said
'98 Riley Street?' And we'd both looked at it
Now they plan to turn this, into this. Recording
studios and editing suites.
A COURT: Offices, offices, offices. Editing
suites, editing suites, editing suites.
And how much is all of this going to cost?
A COURT: Relatively modest actually.
What's modest for a Holmes a Court, three million,
five million, one million?
A COURT: What's modest is what's sensible
for this area and sensible for the project and
you won't get me to answer it any better than
It's typical Holmes a Court. He tells you exactly
what he wants to and gives nothing more away.
For a man who cultivates the public image, he
chooses what he shares carefully.
Family though is an obvious passion, with two
sets of twins under six.
A COURT: Spending time with the family
down here is very special time.
Are you trying to give your kids something you
A COURT: I never want to make my childhood
out to be rough in any way. I had a fantastic
childhood, I didn't want for anything, I was very,
very fortunate. Maybe a bit more of their old
man maybe that's a good thing.
Right now he says he has plenty on his professional
plate. He's taking his foot off the peddle while
his wife Divonne pursues her career.
HOLMES A COURT: He does like to say that
he's supporting me. I think it does make a difference
if two people in a family are in a full time,
completely preoccupying activity.
But he's not a house husband is he?
HOLMES A COURT: No I wouldn't call him
a house husband. Let's say they've got a baby
they can just go to babies.
Divonne Holmes a Court is working on a national
parenting website, a government project about
to go live. But her husband is not really taking
a back seat. Peter Holmes a Court's profile is
higher than ever. His success rate yet to be determined.
Is being Robert Holmes a Court's son still a burden
A COURT: No it's not a burden. It has
good bits and bad bits. I get smacked on the head
because of who he was, people's misconceptions
etc, but also get some other opportunities, of
course I do. But also don't think about it.
Holmes a Court appeared on SBS
Insight 'Playing The Pokies' - 30th April
Man Australia public thank you to Peter, Souths
and the team for your support
Man Australia does not represent Peter Holmes