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McCabe, Adrian Francis (1939–1986)

by Gerard Noonan

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

Adrian Francis McCabe (1939-1986), investor and newsletter entrepreneur, was born on 22 January 1939 at Parramatta, Sydney, fifth surviving child of Sydney-born John Humphries McCabe, leather merchant, and his Queensland-born wife Ivy Hazel, née Attwood.  After studying at Christian Brothers’ College, Waverley, where he was school captain, Adrian joined the family business, which operated a tannery at Willoughby and a leather warehouse in Kent Street, Sydney.  He became a master tanner.  On 22 June 1961 he married Maureen Denise Butt, a schoolteacher, at the chapel of his old school.

When their father sold the family business in the late 1960s, Adrian and his brother Warwick became professional investors.  In October 1974 Adrian launched his first investment newsletter with his friend Terry McMiles, dubbing it Tomorrow’s Business Decisions (later the McCabe-McMiles Letter).  It contained robust advice to invest in Sydney real estate and gold.  Early editions warned against investing in the stock market.  They expanded coverage to include coins, stamps, shares and even baked beans.  By 1978 McCabe had bought out McMiles and had controversially expanded the McCabe Letter to promote real estate in the booming Sydney property market.  Through a related company, ADMAC Property Investment Consultants Pty Ltd, McCabe acted as an intermediary; he sold whole blocks of apartments to his newsletter clients and accepted commissions from the vendors.  It became known as a mail-order real-estate business.

McCabe’s catchcry 'nobody gets rich quick' sat oddly with the advertising that featured him leaning against a (hired) Rolls Royce.  The entrepreneur, with his signature John Newcombe moustache, later owned a succession of such vehicles.  Big, bulky and ebullient (according to the Australian), he built a newsletter business that had, at its peak, more than 15,000 subscribers and reputedly turned over almost $2 million in subscriptions alone.  While the field was a crowded one, that included Ian Huntley’s Your Money, James Ward’s The Investment Adviser and Austin Donnelly’s Investing Today, the Sydney Morning Herald judged the McCabe Letter the 'undisputed leader' of investment sheets.  In 1981 he was again involved in controversy when he promoted investments in imported coloured gemstones, aiming at an annual business of around $25 million.  A sceptical media challenged the valuations he gave to such jewellery but the public-investor appetite for McCabe projects appeared undiminished.  The entire stock sold out in just two days.

In other ventures, McCabe promoted frozen custard franchises and a luxury European car scheme.  Debate about conflicts of interest dogged the operations of McCabe Enterprises Pty Ltd.  As the property market around Australia weakened in the early 1980s, his newsletter subscriber numbers declined to 10,000.  In 1981 he offered investors 42 per cent of the McCabe Property Trust business for $1.25 million, putting assets worth $613,000 into the trust.  It was fully subscribed.  His prediction of a booming stock market for 1982 was not realised.  Survived by his wife and their son and three daughters, he died of cancer on 10 October 1986 at St Leonards, Sydney, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian, 9 April 1979, p 12
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 5 February 1980, p 6
  • Australian Business, 21 May 1981, p 54
  • Business Review Weekly, 18 December 1982, p 9
  • Australian, 13 October 1986, p 13
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1986, p 4
  • private information

Citation details

Gerard Noonan, 'McCabe, Adrian Francis (1939–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mccabe-adrian-francis-14190/text25202, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 20 September 2019.

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

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