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Ian Francis Beaurepaire (1922–1996)

by John Young

This article was published online in 2021

Ian Beaurepaire, late 1960s

Ian Beaurepaire, late 1960s

image provided by Melbourne City Council

Ian Francis Beaurepaire (1922—1996), manufacturer and civic leader, was born on 14 September 1922 at Sunshine, Melbourne, elder child and only son of (Sir) Francis Joseph Edmund (Frank) Beaurepaire, swimmer, businessman, and later lord mayor, and his wife Myra Gertrude, née McKay, both Victorian born. His birth year coincided with his father entering into a partnership to found the Beaurepaire Tyre Service. In 1933 Frank formed the Olympic Tyre and Rubber Co. Ltd with a factory at Footscray. Ian was educated at Carey Baptist Grammar School (1930–35), where he was dux (1933) of the preparatory school, and at Scotch College (1936–40), where he was in the senior teams for rugby union (1939–40) and rowing (1940).

By the late 1930s Beaurepaire’s professional education had begun with odd jobs around his father’s factory, where he learned the fundamentals of tyre and cable manufacture. Against his father’s wishes, he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 15 January 1942, serving as a fitter-armourer with No. 100 Squadron in Papua and New Guinea (December 1942–October 1943). Commissioned on 18 November 1944 and promoted to flying officer on 18 May 1945, he served (August-October 1945) with No. 77 Squadron at Labuan, North Borneo. On demobilisation on 25 October 1945, he became assistant to Charles Butt, the general manager of Olympic Tyre and Rubber and a family friend.

In 1942 Beaurepaire had renewed a friendship with Beryl Edith Bedggood (1923–2018), whose family were footwear manufacturers and who was serving in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force. They married on 26 March 1946 at Littlejohn Memorial Chapel, Scotch College. Beryl would later become convenor (1978–82) of the National Women’s Advisory Council and chair (1985–93) of the council of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

After the war, Beaurepaire combined work and rugby and studied part time for a diploma of industrial management (1954) at the Melbourne Technical College. He joined the board of Beaurepaire Tyre Service Pty Ltd in 1949 and of Olympic Tyre and Rubber in 1951. His steady advancement had a background of fatherly control, bordering on autocracy, and there were tensions between them. When Sir Frank died suddenly in a barber’s chair in 1956, Ian was summoned; the sight of his father’s recumbent body so affected Beaurepaire that he temporarily lost his power of speech. He had a more positive relationship with Charles Butt, a formative influence.

Beaurepaire inherited a tyre, rubber, flooring, and cable manufacturing business, with tyre-sales outlets in several states, but the outflow of money for death duties and his father’s various benefactions led to the companies passing out of the family’s close control. Nevertheless, in 1956 he became vice-chairman of the parent company, Olympic Consolidated Industries Ltd, and in 1959 he assumed the chairmanship of the conglomerate.

Beaurepaire’s chairmanship of Olympic coincided with growth in demand both domestically and overseas for tyres, electronic cables, and other components such as industrial belting and rubber goods. In the fifteen years to 1968 the conglomerate’s sales increased threefold, its number of employees more than doubled to 6,500, while its tyre outlets increased from 19 to 144. It had factories in Melbourne and Brisbane, and (in partnership with Dunlop Rubber Australia Ltd) in South Australia and Western Australia.

While the Olympic tyre business came under pressure from imports, the demand for cables grew. Olympic Cables Pty Ltd merged with Nylex Corporation’s cables division in 1973 and Beaurepaire became chairman of the new entity, Olex Cables Pty Ltd. By 1978 the value of Olympic’s assets was triple the total value of its shares, rendering it vulnerable to a takeover. Beaurepaire remained chairman of Olympic Consolidated Industries until 1980, when it was taken over by Dunlop Australia Ltd. Thereafter he served on the board of Dunlop Olympic Ltd (later Pacific Dunlop Ltd) until 1992.

In 1956 Beaurepaire had followed his father as a Melbourne City councillor, being elected unopposed for the mixed business and residential La Trobe ward. He served on several council committees, notably the traffic and parking committee (1960–64) at a time when the city experienced a rapid growth in traffic. Elected lord mayor for two terms (1965–67), he declined the usual reward of a knighthood, which he considered an excessive honour. He was therefore appointed CMG in 1967, a testament to his modesty. He also served on the Metropolitan Transportation Committee (1963–69), the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority (1971–83, chairman 1981–83), and the board of the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital (1966–88, chairman 1982–88). He accomplished much but was conscious of being in his father’s shadow: asked in 1965 to define his life aims, he answered ‘being successful in life, apart from the fact that I am my father’s son’ (McKernan 1999, 81).

Beaurepaire’s last years were troubled by ill health. He was forced to relinquish golf and later required close care. Survived by his wife (now Dame Beryl) and their twin sons, he died at Mornington on 24 June 1996 and was cremated. An obituary characterised him as ‘by nature a retiring person who did not push himself forward. He was a man of integrity and he believed in solid performance without too many words’ (Wilcox 1996, 14). His estate was sworn for probate at $3,748,691.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Blainey, Geoffrey. Jumping Over the Wheel. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1993

  • Horton, Kerry. ‘Business Leader Served the City.’ Age (Melbourne), 24 July 1996, B2

  • Lomas, Graham. The Will to Win: The Story of Sir Frank Beaurepaire. London: Heinemann, 1960

  • McKernan, Michael. Beryl Beaurepaire. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1999

  • Wilcox, Vernon. ‘Businessman Who Became Lord Mayor.’ Australian, 26 July 1996, 14

Additional Resources

Citation details

John Young, 'Beaurepaire, Ian Francis (1922–1996)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2021, accessed online 26 June 2024.

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