Elders Heritage

Elder’s first Real Estate transaction was made in 1836 with Alexander Elder purchasing land in South Australia. Adelaide’s development as a city was a structured, non-convict, off the plan property development sold to the Scottish elite. As such Alexander Elder’s initial plot purchase was the first step in the successful development of a Real Estate and business tradition.

Since their arrival in 1839 the Elders name has grown over the years into one of the largest, recognised and reliable business names throughout Australia.

Upon his arrival in 1839 at Port Miser, (now Port Adelaide) Alexander Elder launched a new arm of the Scottish based merchant and shipping business commencing trade in goods that could be returned to Britain for sale, such as wool.

Elder branched out as a metal broker when the copper boom hit in 1842 and the company never looked back.

Alexander’s brothers, William, George and Thomas joined Alexander but it was Thomas who stayed on to become an Australian while the other three eventually returned to Scotland and England.

Thomas realized the potential of the pastoral Outback and it was under his encouragement the business imported camels to arrange transport which unlocked the vast interior of Australia. (From this early History now finds Australia breading camels and exporting them to the Middle East). Thomas Elder was laying the foundations of a national business empire that would be built on the back of the sheep but which was funded with cash from the copper boom; cash that enabled him and his peers to acquire huge tracts of land.

The Elder’s Empire, already an economic cornerstone of South Australia, was expanding to one third holding in the WA wool business.

In 1863 Thomas Elder and Robert Barr Smith had several joint business dealings before merging to form Elder Smith and Company. The linking of its wool operations in the two states set the scene for domination of the trade for the next 40 years.

Barr Smith launched Elders Trustee and Executor Limited and formed Elders Metal and Mercantile in Melbourne.

Barr Smith died in 1915 leaving an estate worth more than $250 million in today’s values, much of it endowing charities and Adelaide University. As a patron of the Arts he made numerous contributions to the Art Galleries and Musical educational faculties of the local University. The Elder’s art collection of traditional Australian landscape and period paintings is one of the most valuable of its kind in the world. It is still housed today within the Elder’s head office in Adelaide.

By 1937 Elders now had principal offices in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Geelong and London with 38 country branches in SA, 25 in WA and 2 in NSW. It was an agent for a dozen shipping companies, including P&O and s ship charterer in its own right. It was the agent for six airlines, establishing Elders Travel and was either Australian or SA agent for more than 80 manufacturers, most of whom made products for the company’s farmer and pastoralist clients.

Elders banking business for rural clients was significant, lending in the form of seasonal finance, working capitol, machinery purchases, stock and crop liens or property loans.

Elders in the 21st century is a major player in the beef production chain but the first steps were taken in 1971 establishing a majority investment in Beef City, a high-quality feedlot at Toowoomba in Queensland.

In 1982 Elders emerged with jam maker Henry Jones IXL to become Elders IXL. The following year took control of Carlton & United Breweries (which became Fosters Brewing Group). In 1993 Elders floated from Fosters and regained independence as Elders Limited. This year also saw Elders as one of the oldest registered businesses in Australia and one of the largest beef cattle herds in the world.

In 1995 Futuris Corporation, a major shareholder in Elders became the new owner of Elders Limited.

In 2000 Elders Rural Bank was formed. In its first year of trading it resulted in the Bank achieving a total asset base of $1 billion. 

In 2000 saw the opening of its first office in Tasmania.

In 2001 successfully listed on the ASX as an independent business.

2005 Elders opens an office in Beijing. In this year Elders and Glen McGrath (Australian Cricketer) join forces in sponsorship arrangement to raise funds for the employment of breast cancer nurses. Also launches its own highly-sophisticated internet-based weather service, www.eldersweather.com.au .

2006 also brought about joint ventures with Elders New Zealand. Also established a partnership between Elders and Landcare Australia to support and promote sustainable farming practices. Elders also conducts the first-ever organic and eco wool feature sale in Melbourne. Elders also added Telecommunications to its product and services and in 2007 it secured a $958 million in funding from the Australian Government for a joint venture between Elders and Optus for OPEL Networks.

For more information on the history and tradition of Elders please visit www.elders.com.au/heritage/index.html

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