The fight over Lady Fairfax’s Australian estate

Just a month after the death of Lady Mary Fairfax it appears that the legal wrangling over her AU$600 million estate has only just started. She passed away at the ripe old age of 95 and was ranked the 113th richest person in Australia. She left a business and property portfolio which took many years to build and gave her the comfort she so desired in later life. So, what will become of Lady Fairfax’s mansion?

Fairwater home of Lady Fairfax

Fairwater was the harbourside home of Lady Fairfax in her later years and the mansion is conservatively valued at AU$100 million. We know from her will that there are various hotels and other business assets but at this moment in time there is much attention on Fairwater. Indeed we have heard rumours and counter rumours of discontent within the family as they look to carve up the estate.

When you bear in mind that Fairwater takes in 8000 m², yes, metres not square feet, of prime harbour front property you begin to get an idea of its value. Initially it was believed that the property would be held in trust, “never be sold”, but this aspiration from back in 1996 does not appear to have been acted upon.

An art collection to be proud of

At this moment in time staff at the Fairwater property are still greeting callers and visitors with their traditional welcome. So far long-standing staff have been maintained on the payroll although those who have ventured inside the property described it as “eerily empty” after the demise of the larger-than-life owner. This is a lady who played the social scene in Sydney, had politicians on speed dial and was a great lover of art.

An extraordinary artwork collection has been built up over many years and has been valued at “priceless” and one of the most expensive in not only Australia but the world. While many had hoped some of the priceless artefacts would be held in trust for the good of the Australian population, this seems unlikely.

The Aslim investment company

We know from official paperwork that the Aslim investment company, the vehicle which Lady Fairfax used for her property investments, has exposure to extensive property developments in Harrington Park and Harrington Grove in south-western Sydney. The project take in thousands of new homes and experts believe they have already swollen the company coffers by millions of dollars. The extensive exposure to the property market is enhanced, as we mentioned above, by various hotel businesses which are at the top end of the market.

Untangling this web of assets

It is well documented that Lady Fairfax had various disagreements with family members over the years but towards the end reconciliation won the day. While the exact details of her last will and testament have not yet been revealed it is difficult to believe that a lady of her financial well-being would not have a detailed will and last testament in place. This may not stop infighting amongst the family but hopefully it should set the ball rolling on a structured disposal program.

However, many of the Australian population are hoping and expecting that some of the prized assets will be held in trust for the benefit of Australians in the future. While Lady Fairfax was a national treasure, will her assets follow suit in the future?

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