Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Sir John Hedley Douglas Marks (1916–1982)

by Jim Bain

This article was published:

Sir John Hedley Douglas Marks (1916-1982), businessman, was born on 8 May 1916 at Mosman, Sydney, third of five children of Frederick William Marks, public accountant, and his wife Viva Bessie Meurant, née Stinson, both born in New South Wales. Educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore), John started work with the city accountants Eric S. Kelynack & Higman, became a chartered accountant, and obtained his secretarial qualifications. In the late 1930s he established an accounting firm, initially with Alec Fyfe.

Commissioned in the Militia in 1940, Marks was appointed a lieutenant, Australian Imperial Force, on 1 February 1941 and posted to the 2/6th Armoured Regiment. The following year he transferred to the Australian Army Ordnance Corps. He served in New Guinea on the staff of the 5th Division from December 1943 and was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel in May 1944. After being repatriated in August, he transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 6 November. He had married with Anglican rites Judith Norma Glenwright, a stenographer, on 8 May 1941 at the Church of All Saints, Woollahra. Judy became closely involved in his business activities; he later described her as the ‘governing director’.

Marks again practised as an accountant from 1945; he specialised in taxation matters and built up a large group of overseas contacts and clients. Late in the 1950s he established J. H. D. Marks & Partners. His Australian and overseas clients appointed him to create joint ventures and to supervise their investments. He became a fellow (1947) of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia.

In 1953 Marks set up an investment banking service, Development Finance Co. Ltd, to assist Australia’s industrial development by providing long-term finance and permanent capital to Australian companies. DFC became a public company in 1957 and was listed on the stock exchange in 1959. Some shares were taken up by the overseas insurance and banking organisations with which Marks had been associated during his travels. He worked as managing director (until 1975) and chairman (until 1982).

Among DFC’s subsidiaries were Delfin Discount Co. Ltd, an official dealer in the authorised money market, and two merchant-banking companies associated with the Bank of New York and the Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank of Japan. Another important initiative was the takeover of Australian Fixed Trusts in 1957. A member (1966-81) of the Electricity Commission of New South Wales, he served as chairman of the boards of Brambles Industries Ltd, Garratt’s Ltd, the Reinsurance Co. of Australasia Ltd and the Japan Australia Investment Co. Ltd, and as a director of numerous other companies.

With a reputation as a workaholic who had a computer-like memory, Marks encouraged initiative in those working for him and delegated authority to them. He served on the boards of the Prince Henry, Prince of Wales and Eastern Suburbs hospitals and on the council (1964-76) of Macquarie University. Appointed CBE in 1966, he was knighted in 1972. Gregarious and a ready conversationalist, although not a public figure, he enjoyed golf, fishing and painting in his later years. Survived by his wife and their two daughters, Sir John Marks died of cancer on 22 October 1982 at Little Bay, Sydney, and was cremated. His memoir Reflections was published in 1984.

Select Bibliography

  • R. T. Appleyard and C. B. Schedvin (eds), Australian Financiers (1988)
  • National Times, 31 Jan-5 Feb 1977, p 47
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Oct 1982, pp 27, 28
  • B883, NX12520 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Jim Bain, 'Marks, Sir John Hedley Douglas (1916–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 14 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


8 May, 1916
Mosman, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


22 October, 1982 (aged 66)
Little Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (not specified)

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.