Andrew Forrest brings RM Williams back under Aussie ownership in $190 million acquisition

RM Williams

Nicola and Andrew Forrest. Source: Tattarang. Photographer: Hugh Brown.

Iconic Aussie boots brand RM Williams has been acquired by Tattarang, the investment group owned by mining tycoon Andrew Forrest and his wife Nicola Forrest, in a reported $190 million deal.

The acquisition — which the Australian Financial Review reports values the boots brand at $190 million — brings the business back under Australian ownership.

Founded in the early-1930s by Reginald Williams, RM Williams became known for its riding boots crafted out of a single piece of leather.

In the early-1990s, the business was sold to former News Corp chief Ken Cowley, and in 2013 it was acquired by fashion giant Louis Vuitton, with sponsorship from private equity group L Catterton Asia.

“Nicola and I are incredibly proud and humbled to be able to bring R.M. Williams back under Australian ownership,” Dr Andrew Forrest said in a statement.

“R.M. Williams is a quintessential Aussie brand with a long and proud history of high-quality Australian craftsmanship,” he added.

“I’ve never forgotten the first time I pulled on a pair of RMs.

“To wear RMs is to wear the boots of the countless hard-working Australians that have come before us.”

RM Williams has some 900 employees, including 400 at its workshop in Salisbury, Adelaide.

Nicola Forrest said the new ownership will keep those jobs on Aussie soil.

“Andrew and I want to continue the legacy of this great company, and that means continuing to employ and support the Australians that have built and grown the brand,” she said.

“By bringing R.M. Williams back into Australian hands, we will ensure the Australian craftmanship continues to be loved and worn all around the world.”

Chief executive of RM Williams Raju Vuppalapati said the acquisition follows a period of growth for the business.

“I am delighted with the success we had with re-positioning the brand and delivering significant growth. R.M. Williams’ brand is the strongest it has ever been in its 88-year history,” he said.

“Our 2019 decision to invest in the second boot line, recruiting and training 100 additional employees in our Salisbury workshop, was an important milestone to enable us to continue the growth momentum.”

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