Ian Norman, the co-founder of retail giant Harvey Norman, has died at the age of 75.
In a statement, the company said Norman was an intensely private man who was devoted to his family.
“He was a generous philanthropist who made contributions throughout his life to a diverse range of causes,” the company said. “Mr Norman will be greatly missed by all who had the pleasure of his guidance, support and friendship. He will be remembered as a true gentleman and an Australian business pioneer.”
Brian Walker, chief executive of the Retail Doctor Group, told SmartCompany Norman was one of Australia’s iconic retailers.
“It is sad to hear his passing,” he says. “He was definitely one of the pioneers of Australian retail. He was quite a generous philanthropist in his own right and no doubt in the early days of Harvey Norman would have been very instrumental in what we see today.”
Walker said in the early days Harvey Norman grew quickly because of the lack of competition the market had in comparison to today.
“At the end of the day though they’re just good, fundamental retailers,” he says. “That’s a great legacy and testament to Ian. They’ve always known the value of the dollar and traded accordingly.”
Here’s four things you might not have known about Ian Norman:
1. Norman started out as a door-to-door salesman
Norman met business partner Gerry Harvey when they were both selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door in the early 1960s. They went on to start their business in 1982, which is now one of Australia’s largest retailer of electrical and furniture goods.
Advertising boss John Singleton once said Norman’s partnership with Harvey made him the “luckiest bloke since the Beatles’ Ringo Starr”. “Some people choose their parents well. Ian just joined the best business partner in the world,” said Singleton.
2. Norman left the day-to-day business operations to Harvey
Norman was an intensely private man and was known for keeping out of the day-to-day running of Harvey Norman.
Harvey once said Norman’s involvement in the business involved coming in to “pick up his mail once a week”.
3. Norman was the retailer’s second-largest shareholder and a director for 27 years.
In a statement to the ASX, Harvey Norman Holdings confirmed Norman held 175,249,660 shares in the company – 16.5% of issued shares. Norman’s estate said this morning it intends to hold on to the shares.
4. Norman was one of Australia’s richest people
According to Forbes, Norman is number 37 on Australia’s 40 richest list. At the top of the list is Gina Rinehart, with Norman’s co-founder Gerry Harvey at number 17. BRW reported earlier this month that Norman’s net worth was $735 million, up from $560 million the previous year