Ian John Norman, the man who lent his name to the Harvey Norman retail group, died yesterday (Thursday 29 May 2014) at his home on the New South Wales Central Coast. He was 75.
Norman met the other half of Harvey Norman, current chairman Gerry Harvey, when selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door over 50 years ago. Together, the pair opened their first appliance and electrical retail outlet in 1961, called Norman Ross.
“The business expanded nationally and by 1979, Norman Ross controlled 42 stores with sales exceeding $240 million,” said company secretary Chris Mentis.
The pair sold the chain in 1982 to Grace Bros, which subsequently on-sold it to controversial businessman Alan Bond. Within six months, both Norman and Harvey had been ousted from the chain, so they opened a new venture, Harvey Norman, with the first store located in Auburn, in Sydney’s western suburbs.
Although Norman does not appear in this video, the original store and the spirit of his retail entrepreneurship is evident:
When Harvey Norman floated in 1987, Ian Norman became a non-executive director. In the company’s 2013 Annual Report, Norman is listed as Harvey Norman Holdings’ second biggest shareholder, behind Gerry Harvey, with 175 million shares. This holding is valued at just over $560 million. In 2011, Forbes estimated Norman to be Australia’s 37th richest person.
“Mr Norman was an intensely private man who was dedicated to his family. He was a generous philanthropist who made contributions throughout his life to a diverse range of causes. Mr Norman will be remembered as a true gentleman and as an Australian business pioneer.”
Early today, Harvey Norman released a statement outlining the transferal of Norman’s significant holding in the company.
“The executor and trustee named in Mr Norman’s will is Christopher Brown, who is a director of the company,” Mentis said in a statement. “The executor and trustee has advised the company that the estate of Mr Norman controlled entities intend to remain a long term shareholder in the company.”
Brown currently holds 103,467 shares valued at just over $330,000.