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Michael Graham (Mike) Gore (1941–1994)

by Stephen Stockwell

This article was published:

Michael Grahame Gore (1941–1994), financier and resort developer, was born on 22 August 1941 in North Sydney, son of New South Wales-born Allan George Gore, turner, and his Victorian-born wife Ilma Mary, née Daniels. Mike’s father was later a storekeeper, and the family lived at Balmain. In 1956 Gore attended St Joseph's College, Hunters Hill, but left the same year after completing his Intermediate certificate.

After a variety of jobs, Gore became a service station proprietor and motor mechanic at Greenacre. He was prominent as a motor-racing driver, and a vocal advocate for the interests of drivers over promoters. On 31 October 1964, at the Holy Family Church, East Granville, he married Lynette Mary Hemmy, a cashier. He moved to the Gold Coast in 1972 after meeting Jennifer Jean Parker, daughter of a prominent Queensland grazier, and started an all-night garage and a dealership in Japanese cars that was noted for its exuberant advertising. Having divorced his wife, he married Parker on 26 April 1977 in a civil ceremony at Broadbeach; this marriage too was to end in divorce. His media skills and extrovert personality made him a natural leader of the so-called ‘white-shoe brigade,’ a contingent of politically conservative but sartorially flamboyant Gold Coast nouveaux riches, many from southern States, attracted to Queensland by the pro-development policies of the premier, (Sir) Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

Diversifying his business interests into importing and selling power boats and yachts, in 1982 Gore planned a boat-building venture with Hong Kong's Cheoy Lee Shipyards. The proposed boatyard site, a mangrove swamp and haven for waterbirds, instead became Sanctuary Cove, Australia’s first gated community and master-planned resort, and Gore’s signature achievement. Conceived as an alternative to the high rise of Surfers Paradise, the project sought to attract an elite clientele. It was a four hundred-hectare integrated resort with a marina, golf course, recreation centre, shopping village, cinema, and luxury accommodation for both tourists and permanent residents.

Despite Gore’s and Bjelke-Petersen’s enthusiasm for private enterprise, the project received much assistance from the State government: a bridge linking the site to the Gold Coast; a $10.16 million loan underwritten by the government in controversial circumstances; an alleged $1 million subsidy for dredging the Coomera River near the site; and its own legislation, the Sanctuary Cove Resort Act 1985. Gore and the premier shrugged off allegations of cronyism, while Gore perhaps conceived and certainly promoted the ‘Joh for Canberra’ push, promising to raise $25 million for the campaign in the lead-up to the 1987 Federal election. In the event none of that money materialised and the Fitzgerald corruption inquiry brought about Bjelke-Petersen’s political demise later that year.

In January 1988 Gore launched Sanctuary Cove with a $16 million, five-day extravaganza styled ‘The Ultimate Event,’ featuring matches with international golf and tennis champions, and concerts starring Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, and Peter Allen, with Clive James as compere. Burdened by debt and tax liabilities, he moved immediately to sell his half-share of the resort for a reported $30 million. In 1989 the divorce settlement with his former wife forced the sale of his other properties, while development proposals, notably at Anuha in the Solomon Islands, failed to eventuate.

Gore married Karin Margaret Vernon, an American sports psychologist whom he had met at a San Diego health resort, at Ashfield, New South Wales, in 1990. Dogged by the Australian Taxation Office, he had been acquitted of charges of tax evasion in 1988. He nevertheless owed $25 million from three Australian court judgments against him, and moved to Vancouver, Canada, in 1992 for a financial exile that enabled him to avoid his debtors while seeking new business ventures. He died of a heart attack on 17 December 1994 at North Vancouver, survived by his wife, their twin daughters, three sons and one daughter from his first marriage, and one son from his second. Astute in neither politics nor commerce, he was nonetheless a big thinker, and his Sanctuary Cove helped lift the Gold Coast into the international tourism market at a time when its economy was flagging.

Research edited by Malcolm Allbrook

Select Bibliography

  • Bice, Kathryn. ‘Mike Gore Dies at His Canadian Home, Aged 53.’ Australian Financial Review, 19 December 1994, 31
  • Burchill, Geoff. Passion, Power and Prejudice. Brisbane: Booralong Press, 2005
  • Monaghan, David. ‘The Vision of Blood and Guts Mike Gore.’ Age, 10 October 1986, Good Weekend Magazine, 24-29
  • Strong, Geoff. ‘A Gold Coast Loud Mouth Goes Quietly.’ Sunday Age, 25 December 1994, 7
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Sanctuary Cove Developer.’ 19 December 1994, 8
  • Wear, Rae. Johannes Bjelke-Petersen: The Lord's Premier. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 2002  

Citation details

Stephen Stockwell, 'Gore, Michael Graham (Mike) (1941–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2018, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

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