COMMERCE

Sir John Walton
Australia Crest

John Robert Walton was born in Charters Towers, Queensland in 1904, the son of a member of the Stock Exchange during the gold rush.

He spent his early years on a sugar plantation at Ayr, on the Burdekin, before the family moved to Sydney.

Young Bert went to Scots College at Bellevue Hill and carried through to his mid 20s playing golf or catching a wave at Bondi Beach. In fact, he was so good at surfing he was NSW champion.

He later said he wasted the first 26 years of his life.

He began his commercial career, aged 26, selling cash registers in northern Queensland for the US company National Cash Register, eventually becoming managing director in 1946 for Australia and the Pacific region.

In 1951 Walton bought a menswear store in George Street, Sydney, opposite Town Hall station and the business thrived until 1955 when he formed an alliance with US giant Sears & Roebuck.

In the 60s he formed a finance company in partnership with newcomers to Australia, Citibank, and also moved into insurance.

He became Sir John for services to commerce in 1971.

By 1972 he had built the Walton chain to 96 department stores before his retirement as executive chairman.

In 1976, Sir John severed ties with the company, leaving the reins in the hands of his son John and in 1981, the new kid on the block, Alan Bond. Bond sold the company in 1987 and the Waltons name disappeared.

He was a man who had faith in his own ability and it was to this he attributed his success.

Sir John Walton, a pioneer of Australian retailing, died in Sydney in January 1998, aged 93.


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