John Hemmes, the founder of Australian property empire Merivale Group, has died after a long battle with cancer, aged 83.
Along with his wife, Merivale, Hemmes founded the family business in the 1950s initially as a fashion house, before it moved into hotels, restaurants, bars and pubs.
The group’s portfolio now includes more than 50 locations, including Establishment and The Ivy, worth an estimated value of more than $1 billion. His son, Justin, now runs the family empire, while his daughter, Bettina, has worked on the creative side of the business, helping to design many of the group’s venues.
Hemmes was born in Indonesia to Dutch parents, and spent four years as a prisoner-of-war during the Second World War.
He spent several years working in New Zealand before he moved to Australia where he met his future wife. They opened their first fashion outlet in 1957.
The family business operated the labels Mr John and House of Merivale for several decades. It was only in the early 1990s that Hemmes changed business strategy and moved into property. The family opened the Merivale restaurant in Sydney and by 1996 their last fashion outlet had closed.
Hemmes, who was diagnosed with his incurable bone marrow cancer in 2009, is survived by his wife and two children. His death was announced on the company website on Monday.