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STEPS TO A FAMILY OFFICE From family business to family office


James N Kirby was for many decades a household name in Australian manufacturing. Now the third Kirby business generation has transformed the company into a family office, explains the founder’s grandson, James Kirby.


growth of the business required more space so he moved into a factory in Camperdown in 1932. The business expanded rapidly through the war years, manufacturing aircraft components. After the war, “JN” was joined by his two sons, Kevin and Raymond, and they turned to manufacturing domestic refrigerators. This became the backbone of an expanding empire. Growth through the 1960s saw the


M


“Since the sale of the business ... Holdings has evolved into a more traditional family office,


providing services to the seven members of the third generation”


36 FAMILY OFFICE: ASIA TOMORROW


establishment of a much larger factory complex at Milperra, about 30 km from Sydney. However, Camperdown remained the headquarters of the business until 1970. In 1970 the Camperdown site was


compulsorily acquired by RPA hospital, so JN and his sons bought a whole floor of a new three-storey office development nearby. My grandfather died in 1971, and his corner office was converted to a lounge room filled with his memorabilia. I joined the company in 1975 and my


brother in 1977, and we both worked in the manufacturing business. Our father Raymond ran the “holdings” company, while Kevin ran the manufacturing business. Holdings owned all the real estate and was the banker to the manufacturing business. Holdings developed and acquired warehouses throughout Australia to cater to the growth of the refrigeration wholesaling division, and when the automotive products operations was sold off, the redundant factories at Rockdale were refurbished and let. As the importance of Holdings grew,


y grandfather started his automotive reconditioning business in Newtown, Sydney in 1924, but the


Dad and Kevin became more involved with external activities. Kevin appointed a CEO for the manufacturing business, and became a director and chairman of several public companies. Raymond attained the national presidency of the MTIA (now IAG) and later became a director of NRMA. They also devoted their time to the foundation set up my grandfather, and became involved in many of the charities they supported. To free up more of their time, they appointed an external MD to Holdings in 1980. I joined the board of Holdings in 1984


and saw the transformation of the group from a manufacturing focus to a diversified investment company with a large share and property portfolio. When the manufacturing business was sold in 1999, we invested the proceeds in more properties and shares. Since the sale of the business, Raymond


has retired and Kevin passed away, and so Holdings has evolved into a more traditional family office, providing services to the seven members of the third generation. An important part of this has been in educating them in understanding finance and investment, and now we all manage our own share portfolios. The family office’s main services are


accounting and company secretarial; property management; funds management; office facilities; insurance; and funds management and grant administration for the James N Kirby Foundation. The foundation is the sole shared activity for the third generation, and will continue thus for the fourth generation.


James Kirby is a member of the NSW committee of Family Business Australia and proprietor of Hungerford Hill Wines.


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