Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Wilson, John Henry (1931–1986)

by Colin Sheehan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

John Henry Monteith Wilson (1931-1986), stockbroker and underwriter, was born on 23 April 1931 at Wynnum South, Brisbane, youngest of three surviving children of Victorian-born Clarence (Bill) Marmaduke Wilson, stockbroker, and his Brisbane-born wife Hester, née Monteith.  John was educated (1938-47) at the Church of England Grammar School, Brisbane.  After matriculating he joined the wool-selling broker, Moreheads Ltd, as a junior clerk.  From September 1950 he worked on the North Australian Pastoral Co.’s Alexandria Downs Station.  Returning to Brisbane in February 1951, he joined the public accountants Valentine & McInnes.  On 15 January 1953 at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Spring Hill, he married Pamela Jean Hawkins.  He moved to Tunleys Pty Ltd, bag manufacturers, in October 1953, as an assistant-accountant, rising to the third most senior position by 1955.

In February 1958 Wilson followed his father and brother, Robert (Bob), into the family business, Henry Monteith & Co., a small respected equity brokerage firm set up by his maternal grandfather.  On 31 January 1959 Henry Monteith & Co. was dissolved and its successors—Wilson & Co. and Arthur Bratchford, Lynch & Co.—pursued separate operations.  Graduating from the University of Queensland (B.Ec., 1959), John Wilson took his father’s seat on the Brisbane Stock Exchange on 23 February 1959.

The partnership set up by the two brothers, Wilson & Co., developed into an Australia-wide operation, becoming a leading stockbroking firm.  To exploit a niche in the national market, they developed expertise in oil and gas stocks.  In 1965 the Brisbane oil and gas index attained national and international attention with the discovery of oil at Moonie and exploration in the Surat Basin.  Wilson & Co. underwrote exploration ventures in Queensland and throughout Australia.

John Wilson’s attraction to venture capital was unusual in Brisbane and drew favourable notice from Staniforth Ricketson of J. B. Were & Son.  He had an ability to select people with the same dedication to the equities business and for 'picking coming market performers'.  Wilson & Co. was the first stockbroking house in Queensland to be associated with a venture-capital company when it established Capricornia Petroleum Ltd in 1966 (after October 1969 Bligh Ventures Pty Ltd).

Wilson took advantage of rapidly changing economic and market conditions in Australia, positioning Wilson & Co. to benefit from the deregulation of the financial system.  In 1984 government liberalisation of foreign investment in Australian markets enabled the firm to undertake, with McIntosh Griffin Hamson Wallace Smith & Co., the underwriting of Kidston Gold Mines Ltd.  The float was successful and confirmed Wilson & Co. 'in the top ranks of Australia’s equity raising brokers'.  Wilson’s contribution was recognised when he was named Business Review Weekly’s inaugural Australian stockbroker of the year.  He was appointed a director of Suncorp Insurance and Finance on 10 April 1986.

John and Bob Wilson had complementary personalities; John was the external face of the business, while Bob ran backroom operations.  John backed intuition with office research and with field visits that he loved making to remote areas.  He inherited his father’s motoring and boating interests, especially in sports cars and game fishing.  He was a member of the Queensland Club and the Moreton Bay Game Fish Club.  He died of cancer on 19 December 1986 in Brisbane and was buried in Toowong cemetery with Anglican rites.  He was survived by his wife and their three sons.  The firm endowed the John Wilson Memorial Clinical Research Laboratory at Royal Brisbane Hospital and established a charitable trust, the Wilson Foundation, in his memory.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Lougheed, The Brisbane Stock Exchange (1984)
  • C. Sheehan, Wilson HTM Ltd (1996)
  • Australian, 23 March 1984, p 13
  • Business Review Weekly, 22 December 1984, p 45
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 20 December 1986, p 14
  • Australian Financial Review, 23 December 1986, p 12
  • private information and personal knowledge.

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Citation details

Colin Sheehan, 'Wilson, John Henry (1931–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wilson-john-henry-15796/text26995, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 27 May 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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