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Vale Richard Owens AM

FBA Chair, Angus Kennard reflects on the life of family business legend, Richard Owens AM.

31 January, 2024
Family Business, Family Business Leaders, Family-Owned Business, Article, About Us
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It is with great sadness to hear of the passing of Richard Owens AM. Richard was a legend in family business circles, both for his business acumen and his deep understanding of family businesses and their family dynamics.

Richard had experience in the dynamic challenges of family business firsthand when his grandfather passed away at the young age of 54, leaving a general store in a country town to his wife and 3 boys.

The founder’s sons could not agree on the direction of the business, and so his grandson, Richard, was forced to intervene, partitioning the business between three different family factions. The business was sold to the largest retailer in the country at the time. From that point, Richard Owens was able to build his own supermarket empire, which he later sold to one of Australia’s largest retailers in 1988. Richard was one of the early adopters of good governance when it comes to a family business, putting in place an owners’ board for the business and family council for the greater family. 

Richard said he would have never imagined that the story of his family business, a growing portfolio of grocery stores and other property investments, would become a family business case study taught around the world. He advocated much around succession in family business and the “retiring to something than from something”.

Since then, Richard dedicated himself to educating students on the financial impact of family conflict and imparting practical techniques to avoid it. As the Executive-in-Residence position at the IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland, Richard educated others through his openness to share his family’s unique story, and over the last decades, he taught his own family business case around the world. Richard, after learning of the family business principles, helped start the Family Business Network (FBN) to help others learn how to organise their family and business through the implementation of simple governance structures.

Richard was an honorary professor at Bond University in Australia. He taught for many years at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Harvard Business School and IMD. Richard was Chairman of FBA from 2010 to 2012 and served on the FBA Board of Directors, FBA NSW Committee, and the Council of Wisdom.

Richard dedicated much of himself, in addition to family business education, towards philanthropy. He was on the board of Opera Australia and the Institute of Deaf and Blind Children for 20 years each, chaired the Medical Research Institute Association with the University of Newcastle and on boards of many other charitable organisations. He used to say to me “philanthropy is two-pronged, if you give money, you also have to give time”. Richard was recognised and honoured as an OAM for service to his community and an AM for his extended service to Autism Australia and many other charities.

Richard was also chair of my FBA Forum Group and on a personal note I cannot thank him enough for his support, mentorship, and leadership. He has been an inspiration to us all and he will be missed greatly.

Richard is succeeded by his wife Mary, 4 kids, 14 grandkids and 4 great grandkids and our thoughts are with his family.

Angus Kennard
Chair, Family Business Association