Sidney Baillieu Myer, AC
Co-Founder and Past President of The Myer Foundation
“Why are you interested to interview a retired old man?” was the question posed before I even got a chance to introduce myself and EZ Australia. First impression of Sidney Baillieu (Bails) Myer AC was that although at 91 years of age, he is still very sharp and alert with a very strong voice. The interview with EZ Australia was conducted in Bail’s beautiful house in Toorak. The residence was immensely decorated with carefully selected antique furniture and Chinese works of arts together with Aboriginal artifacts displayed on walls and tables overlooking a charming garden. Tea and slices of ginger cakes were served while wife Sarah sat quietly next to the man she married for 60 odd years ago.
The Myer family have very deep roots in the hearts of Australians especially with the iconic brand Myer, Australia’s largest department stall, the numerous charity works that this family has contributed throughout the years to the society of Australia and also their support towards Australian and Asian arts.
Bails was born in San Francisco, California on 11 January 1926 of Russian parentage which later the family moved to the great land down under. He was filled with pride while talking about his father and when asked about the Myer shopping center, Bails explained that his father wanted customers to receive friendly services and valuable experiences when they visited the store during the early days it first started in Bendigo. When asked how difficult it was to maintain the business after the passing of his father in 1934.
“Ken and I took over the business, worked hard and finally took the business nationwide. I was the last to retire in 1996. ” said Bails without hesitation.
Besides the shopping business industry, Bails has also ventured into the farming and winery business activities include a Santa Gertrudis cattle stud, a Quarterhorse stud at Yulgilbar in Northern New South Wales, and wine making at Elgee Park on the Mornington Peninsula.
On the other hand, Bails is also very into art and antique.
“I think this love and passion is in my DNA especially growing up with a major Chinese collection that my father bought in San Francisco, later brought it all the way to Australia and the collection is still with us since 1932” Bails answered with a smile when asked why.
In his art journey, Bails has provided extensive leadership in the Australian art world through organizations such as National Gallery of Victoria and has put together important art collections that some have been donated to public institutions. Bail and Sarah have been long term art collectors who are highly respected in their field. Some of the significant focus collections are contemporary Australian art from the 1980s, Aboriginal art from the 1990s, sculptures from 2000s and two collections of Japanese art namely the medieval period Negaro Lacquer works and the Japanese baskets.
Bails was indeed very proud when the conversation turned towards family. He first met Sarah in a family party then again in London, got engaged in 1955 and married three months later. Bails jokingly said, “… the first 60 years were tough and the last 2 years were very good” when asked about his marriage. However he continued with confidence claiming that Sarah would say ‘Yes’ if he proposes again and he will definitely marry her and only her. He said that it was a blessed and very happy marriage made possible through laughter, sense of humour and shared interests. Today, Bails is a father of 3 and a grandfather to 12 amazing grandchildren.
Sarah was there with all smiles when Bails was telling his love story. She added that Bails was a very energetic guy who is interested in a lot of things including wine, country, politics,… and he is very flexible. Asked why did she say ‘Yes’ to Bails 62 years ago, her answer was “It seemed like a good idea then and we had a lot of fun through the years”. Switzerland was the place they spent their honeymoon and it is still their popular and regular destination.
It was a true honour for EZ to have the opportunity to interview this great man and his wife but this article alone touches only on a very small part of the life of Baillieu Myer AC. One should get hold of a copy of Bails recent memoir ‘IN Full Stride – The Life And Times Of Baillieu (Bails) Myer’ that was recently launched.
“为何有兴趣采访一个退休老人?”在我还没来得及介绍自己和《御智澳大利亚》之前，他就抛出问题。说到对Sydney Baillieu (Bails) Myer AC的第一印象：虽然已经年届91岁，但他仍然非常敏锐、机智，声音洪亮。《御智澳大利亚》的采访是他在Toorak区的漂亮房子里进行，这座住宅装饰着精心挑选的古董家具，还有挂在墙上和摆在桌上的中国艺术品与原住民土著手工艺品，俯瞰着迷人的花园。在端上茶和姜饼后，妻子Sarah安静地坐在这个结缡60多年的男人身边。
“Ken和我接管了经营业务，我们努力的进行维持和开拓工作，最终在全国范围内拓展业务。我是在1996年，也是最晚退休的人。” Bails 毫不犹豫地说。
除了购物商场业务之外，Bails还涉足农业和酿酒厂，包括 Santa Gertrudis 牛种、新南威尔士北部 Yulgilbar 的夸特马、以及莫宁顿半岛的埃尔吉公园酿酒工艺。
在他的艺术倡导之旅中，透过维多利亚国家美术馆等组织在澳大利亚艺术界发挥了广泛的引导作用，并将一些贵重艺术收藏品捐赠给了公共机构。Bail 与 Sarah长期以来受到艺术收藏家高度尊敬。重要收藏品包括20世纪80年代的澳大利亚当代艺术、20世纪90年代的原住民土著艺术品、21世纪的雕塑和两个日本艺术收藏品，即中世纪的 Negaro 漆器作品和日本篮子。
《御智》有幸采访到这名领军人物和他的夫人，但是本文仅触及很小部分的 Baillieu Myer AC。而随着近期推出的回忆录：全速迈进 – Baillieu (Bails) Myer 的生命和时间。让每个人对于这位伟大企业家有更全面的了解。