THE PATRIARCH'S WILL - THE MYER FAMILY - PART 3
Given the ongoing success of the emporium and a relaxing of social attitudes, few snubbed the homecomers. They were welcomed at Melbourne society parties; Sidney lavished gifts of his on his adored wife, and indulged himself by buying flashy cadillacs and adding to his Asian jade collection. Occasionally the family were reminded they weren't of the Melbourne establishment. Both Ken and bails were refused membership of that bastion of conservatism, the Melbourne club. On another occasion a young Marigold was quietly told b a member of the Baillieu family not to apply for membership to one of Melbourne's exclusive golf clubs, because as the daughter of a Jew she wouldn't be accepted. Sidney, perhaps still worried that his family's status in polite society hung by a thread, was keen to establish his position as a leading and caring Melburnian. His first well-published benefaction on arriving in Melbourne was an 8000 pounds gift to the children's hospital. But his most celebrated charitable endeavours were precipitated by the Great Depression.
The world's stockmarkets crashed in October 1929. Many businesses were shattered, but Myers was large enough and popular enough to weather the storm. By 1930 the unemployment rate had reached 20 per cent. Neither federal nor state governments provided any answers and largely relied on charities to look after the burgeoning ranks of the 'deserving poor'. More than ever before, Melbourne was marvellous for some, desperate for others. The capitalist free-market bubble had burst and throughout the once bustling city, businesses were laying off workers. The slums were overflowing. Here people lived cheek by jowl in the neglected tenements; epidemics were frequent, food basic and work practically non-existent.
As the Myers store in Bourke Street, not a single person was laid off. Sidney took the unprecedented step of taking a cut in his own salary and persuaded in the business community that little could be done to stem the tide of recession. He remained a staunch free-market capitalist, believing the Depression could be defeated through private spending. According to grandson Stephen Shelmerdine a favourite saying of his was that 'It is the responsibility of capital to provide work; if it fails to do this it fails to justify itself'. He encouraged business and political leaders to spend. The same energy he had given to creating the Myer Emporium he now directed towards addressing the recession. He instituted a number of employment schemes (the building of the Yarra Boulevard round Como Park was one), and he also brought forward a rebuilding program for the store.
As Christmas 1930 drew desperately near, newspapers implored the wealthy to give generously to a Christmas appeal so that all children would have at least one toy. In Melbourne, charitable Christmas lunches for the poor and their families were an established tradition. as unemployment rose ever higher, it became a more earnest public gesture. In keeping with his flamboyant character, Sidney Myer decided to provide a lunch on a grand scale. While other charitable meals were held around the city, nothing could compare with the Christmas feast Sidney Myer laid on at the Exhibition building. Unlike other charitable dinners or lunches, there was no committee behind this one - it was shaped and organised down to the last detail by the fastidious Sidney. He 'invited' ten thousand unemployed men and their families for lunch. The actual number fed was closer to twelve thousand - at five enormous sittings stretching through the afternoon. Sidney was host and head waiter as well as diner. According to the Argus newspaper: Tables stretched in all directions within the building, and before each guest were laid plates of corned beef and ham, tomatoes, pickled onions, a slice of Christmas cake, two rolls, sliced peaches for dessert, apples, dixie cups to be filled with beer or soft drinks, and a packet of toffee. Throughout the day a Santa Claus sweltered in his red suit and beard as he entertained the crowds of children and each was given a gift. at the final sitting three thousand people came to the tables. Staff and family helped serve the tonnes of food, including Norman's young daughter Pamela. Rather wistfully, she still remembers it as a wonderful day, one that made her feel that she was part of something 'very special'.
Sidney told news reporters these people were his guests, not the targets of his charity, and that it provided a boost to people experiencing extremely difficult times. There were photos and a cartoon of Sidney wearing a Santa Claus hat, carrying a Christmas pudding. Some of Melbourne's prim establishment must have smouldered to see the Jewish draper casting himself as a symbol of Christian goodwill. Irate competitors declared him mad; others dismissed the lunch as a rather superficial self-aggrandising stunt. His daughter Marigold waves off any suggestion that her father's Christmas lunch was anything but a compassionate gesture as 'he genuinely wanted to help mankind'. Sidney's grandson Stephen Shelerdine is devoted to his grandfather's memory and understands Sidney's philanthropy as 'a genuine expression of someone who had come from a deeply disadvantaged and repressed background, realising that he had an opportunity and privilege of being able to help others who were disadvantaged - and he was in one sense a soft touch for that sort of thing. He received thousands of letters from people wanting clothes and shoes in the Depression. He had people come to his house; they came to his door seeking simple acts of charity.'
Sidney Myer's acts of charity during the Depression years built his personal legend to new dimensions. To many Melburnians, he had become something of a hero. But he would have only four years left to enjoy his iconic status. On 5 September 1934, Sidney told his driver Harry to meet him on Toorak Road as he needed a short walk. He'd had a bad night's sleep and felt weary. As he set off down the gravel drive of the family mansion, he felt a tightness across his chest. Moments later he collapsed, felled by a massive heart attack, a few metres from his home. He was fifty-six. Sidney Myer's position in the community was illustrated at his funeral the following day. Thousands of people quietly lined the 11-kilometre stretch as the funeral cortege wound its way through the streets of Melbourne from his home in Toorak to the Box Hill cemetery. Floral tributes filled eight cars - many from people Sidney had met while hawking goods back in those tough early years. Seven hundred people travelled by rail to the cemetery - three special trains had to be added for the day. They all wanted to pay their respects to this larger-than-life benevolent entrepreneur. Sidney died a millionaire who held the controlling interest in Melbourne's largest department store and a civic hero. He now left it to his family to continue the business and the philanthropy. His wife and children were to be guided by the patriarch's will, signed on 3 June 1930. Typically patriarchs favour the eldest son, encouraging a smooth transition from father to heir. Sidney Myer, innovative to the end, favoured a more long-term collective approach, inviting his family to hold together for at least one generation. Sidney's will exerted his personality and influence well beyond the grave. Indeed, his four children's lives would be forever linked to their father's dreams and ambitions.
The patriarch gave twelve pages of detailed instructions in the executors of his estate. His widow and children only had rights to the income earned by the estate's assets during their lifetimes. The actual assets would be passed on to the grandchildren. This secured the family holdings for at least a generation. After payment of various monies to Merlyn and several contemporaries, Sidney Myer directed that a tenth of the residue should be used to fund a philanthropic trust, the Sidney Myer charitable Trust; the remainder would then be divided into ten parts. Income from two parts went to Merlyn; their four children, (Ken (thirteen), Neilma (twelve), Bails (eight) and Marigold (s0x) were to receive the income from one part each; and a half part each went to his brother EB and nephew Norman. The remaining three parts were earmarked for Ken and Bails on condition that they were a part of Myer management before they tur4ned thirty. Lured by this substantial legacy, both sons would later move into the family business.
The Myers are one of the few Australian families possessing both the wealth and the inclination to operate a family office, and it is from here that various Myer businesses and philanthropic organisations are based. Almost seventy years after Sidney Myer's death, his moral authority is manifest from the moment you enter the Myer Family Group office. His portrait, painted posthumously, hangs centre stage, between two windows that open panoramically to the towering business centre of modern-day Melbourne. He is the family icon, lending a virtuous command to his descendants. This dynastic office sits above bustling Collins street, well removed from street level, at the choice end of two floo9rs of a concrete and glass tower in the heart of the city's business district. Much has been gained and lost in the years since Sidney's death. The family has undergone its own evolution - from strong patriarchal founder, through the sibling relations and rivalries of his offspring, and into third and fourth generations featuring an alliance of cousins and a more collective governance. Although the 'Store' still dominates a block on Bourke Street, the great Myer Emporium is no longer the jewel in the family crown. The family has pulled back from the hand-on grit of the retail business, preferring the more dispassionate enterprise of investment. The family are now significant minority shareholders in what has become the biggest retail corporation in the country - Coles Myer Limited. Only one Myer, Sidney's grandson Martyn, has a place on that board. The loss of direct control of the Myer emporium was a protracted and painful operation surrounded by bitterness and a sense of decline.
After Sidney's death, his nephew Norman became head of the business. Since leaving school both Sidney and Norman had assumed Norman would eventually succeed his uncle. The young Norman was a mix of joviality and devil-may-care insolence, often exasperating Lee Neil who had to supervise the young man's training while Sidney lived in the United states. On one occasion the headstrong Norman had every window of the Bourke Street store displaying a model with 'Nude' silk stockings. Lee Neil declared Norman's marketing stunts too crude and vulgar for Melbourne. If the young Norman perhaps struck Neil as crass, his uncle was committed to having his de facto heir well placed in the company. In 1928 he ordered the thirty-year-old Norman to manage the newly acquired Myer store in Rundle Street, Adelaide. The prince regent always did as directed by the retail king, looking to Sidney for guidance on the most important aspects of his life. He followed Sidney's direction and was baptised an Anglican, despite having no spiritual connection with the Christian church. Sidney had drummed into his young nephew that their Russian Jewish background was of the past. They had to look to the future, and that future was Christian and Australian. Consequently, it was only after Norman's death that his daughter Pamela discovered her father was Russian and Jewish and that his mother - her grandmother - was still alive.
Around the time of Norman's Anglican baptism, Sidney encouraged his heir to woo a beautiful seventeen-year-old, barely out of school, even though Norman already had a fiancee. Five months later the twenty-three-year-old Norman married his new teenage sweetheart, the golden-haired Gladys. She became a regular feature in the glossy social pages; a wonderful 'clothes horse' and advertisement for Myer fashions. A short, rather pudgy man, Norman never had Sidney's charisma, but he did have the ambition and acumen to make his mark as a retail giant. His daughter Pamela calls him an egotistical genius; to others he was dictatorial. He copied Sidney's autocratic style but never had the endearing charm of the founder. Norman's approach was abrasive and at times ruthless. But during his reign the Myer emporium was carried to new heights. Norman ran the Myer Emporium with obsessive energy and pragmatism and under his tenure the4 business underwent a tenfold increase in turnover. He decentralised the company and opened new stores in Adelaide, Brisbane, Geelong and Ballarat. By the time of his death in 1956 Myers was the fifth-largest store in the world. Norman's family enjoyed living in fabulous opulence in exquisite homes, with a sizable domestic staff to pick up after them. But it came at a price. Norman was a distant husband and father to his three children Rodney, Pamela and Beresford - the Store was his passion. Gladys was left to amuse herself by spending money, which apparently she did.
Unlike Sidney, Norman didn't guarantee that all his offspring would continue to enj9oy their accustomed privileges. A few yeas before he died, Norman Myer divorced Gladys and married a woman younger than his own daughter. This marriage produced two children and on his death Norman's second family became his main beneficiaries. for Norman's older children, in particular his daughter Pamela, the days of plenty were gone forever. Even Pamela's husband, the Honourable Simon Warrender, found his insurance services for Myer business interests terminated immediately after his father-in-law's death. The Warrenders are now the poor relations to Sidney's children and grandchildren. In a bitterly fought and very public 1970s court case, Pamela tried but failed to get a larger slice of her father's estate. one of the executors of Norman's was the man who replaced him at the Myer Emporium, Ken Myer.
With Norman's death it was time for Ken, Sidney's eldest son, to take his dynastic place as the head of the Myer business. The generational shift brought many changes. Under Norman's direction there were some sixteen Myers working in the company. This number immediately declined as an autocratic and nepotistic style was replaced by a corporate one. The Myer retail empire was beginning to discard the family connections. Not that a complete separation between the family and the business could happen too rapidly. Sidney's sons, Ken and younger brother Bails, had little choice but to join the company. The father's will had set this course, but neither ken nor bails had the bombastic style of his predecessor. Ken had many non-business interests in the arts and philanthropy. From the mid-1960s and mid-1970s he chaired the Myer board while leaving the day-to-day operations with the uncharismatic Kenneth Steele, a man dubbed 'Staineless' by his staff.
The unconventional and beguiling Ken Myer usually caused ructions outside, rather than inside, the Myer business. He upset Melbourne's establishment when h signed a public letter supporting the Labor Party during the 1972 election campaign. his disapproving and conservative mother Dame Merlyn and brother Bails immediately fired off their own missiles by contacting the Liberal party to declare their support. Bails was always the more conventional of the two brothers and Sidney's second son moves naturally in Melbourne's establishment milieu. He has been known to play host to visiting British royalty and, on the surface at least, epitomises the society that once snubbed his Jewish father. For many years Bails was on the Myer board of directors, but found himself occasionally without executive function and free to run a variety of to her corporate interests from a separate office. He was the Myer chair when the company accepted the takeover bid by Coles in 1985.
Ken and Bails entered the family business in their early twenties, both claiming they had retail 'in their blood'. But unlike their father and Uncle Norman, they were never passionate hands-on retailers. They had grown up knowing only the best life could offer; slogging away at the Store was neither necessary not, perhaps, inviting. Like so many dynasts, Sidney's legacy cast a long and at times stifling shadow over his sons. They revered the memory of their father and knew they could never relive his unique greatness. From the time of Norman's death in 1956 to the 1985 merger, Myers changed from a groundbreaking emporium to a labyrinthine corporate entity juggling reduced profits. In those thirty years Myer department stores had spread throughout Australian cities and their outer suburbs, along the way buying the down-market Target chain. As the tentacles of the retail octopus grew, the family's daily connection became more tenuous. By the 1980s there were only four members of the family working for Myers. Typically the patriarch never considered his daughters to be fully fledged dynastic heirs like his sons. Neilma and her younger sister Marigold were not encouraged by Sidney's will to get involved in the business; the sisters watched from the sidelines as the Store left family hands. It's probably no coincidence that the 1985 Coles merger occurred a few years after Dame Merlyn Myer's death. Despite Myers being a publicly listed company since 1925, the family had always held approximately 20 per cent of the company's shares. With such a substantial minority holding, any merger would more or less depend on the family's blessing. Perhaps only with the death of the patriarch's wife - a woman who never remarried and revered the memory of her dead husband - could the family really opt out of the nitty-gritty of retail. Neilma is still convinced that it wouldn't have happened if her mother had been alive. Merlyn would never have agreed to her children washing their hands of the retail empire her husband had created from nothing. Some in the family still cleave to the potent memory of a uniquely dynamic family enterprise. for others the loss of the Store was something of a relief - gone was the oppressive expectation that they should spend their lives immersed in the retail business.
However, the remaining members of this successful dynasty do not intend to walk away from the ideals of the founder. After the patriarch has left the throne, a dynastic family can only hold together if they are able to claim a shared identity. Sidney's will secured family cooperation. With one of the founder's legacies, the Store, now gone, his ancestors want to ensure that the other legacy, philanthropy, goes from strength to strength. Myer blood is now apparently built on the DNA not of retail but of benevolence. Three of Sidney's children, Bails, Neilma and Marigold, remain the income beneficiaries of his estate. The eldest brother, Kevin, died in a plane crash in 1992. In the next twenty years the rest of the third generation, Sidney and Merlyn's grandchildren, are set to inherit the assets. When this happens, the Myer family will no longer be compelled to work together in either investment or philanthropy. Few want this to happen - many regard the advantages of sticking together as outweighing any drawbacks. They feel that for their dynasty to be enlivened they need philanthropy both as a link back to the founder and as a basis for future possibilities. However, for the ever-expanding tribe to continue the patriarch's charitable legacy into the fourth generation, much work is needed. There are now more than eighty members of the family, covering the second, third and fourth generations - all of them, once they become adults, free to participate in the range of family business and philanthropic endeavours. It is a divergent group. Aside from the investment company, the Myers have created family structures to voice ideas and provide extra strength to the adhesive. There's the Family council, a forum to discuss ideas and values, which can provide an ethical voice in discussions on investment.
And there's the Family Muster. Every two years the eighty or so family members hire a lodge and skilled advisers, and - in the words of Sidney's daughter Marigold - 'go to the mountains or somewhere ... and for three days we'll met together to discuss all the issues that we as a family care about'. These Musters keep the family in touch and introduce the teenagers to the variety of things the family does. For the junior members, the Muster acts as something of a careers advisory service. The youngsters know they can turn to this kinship gathering for advice on setting up their own business or moving into the family enterprise. Through a variety of discussion groups and formal game-playing the older generations can also observe the talents and ambitions of the fourth generation. What motivates the family to keep working together is quite simply money; the money that is tied up in Sidney's estate. As the most outspoken member of the family, Vallejo Gantner (Sidney's great-grandson), puts it: 'If money left tomorrow, I think a lot of the reasons for the idea of a Myer family wouldn't be there any more - and that's because philanthropy wouldn't be an option and the kind of way that the business structure is set up is a single business wouldn't be there. We've ... constructed these frameworks, around the idea that it is the family which is the foundation, the business structure and the Family council ... and they buttress your sense of what it means to be in a family - and if the dollars that supported that weren't there, everyone would get on with their lives. I mean, I don't think anyone would be shattered.' Whether they'd be shattered or not, the family works hard to keep these structures together - and to enhance the family wealth.
Unlike Vallejo, two members of the family, Lady Marigold Southey and her son Stephen Shelmerdine, can always be relied on to give smoother accounts of the family's history. Justifiably proud of their heritage, they never seem to tire of telling the well-known high points in Sidney's life: the 1930 Christmas lunch, the building of the Yarra Boulevard at Como park, Sidney's revolutionary sales techniques. like all powerful dynasties, the golden moments in the family's history are what's generally told and retold to both the family and to the public. The more unsettling or disruptive episodes, such as Sidney's first marriage or losing control of the family busi8ness, are usually glossed over. The 'official family history is told as a selection of iconic vignettes, that also serve to reflect well on the dynasty and its current preoccupations. Stephen and Marigold are well-chosen spokespeople for the Myers. Both are amicable and hold a genuine belief in the importance of philanthropy and therefore the family's significance. Sitting in the Myer meeting room, high above Collins Street, Stephen Shelmerdine comments that the family acts '... through this philanthropic foundation because we believe we should. Clearly there may e some who feel that it is purely self-serving or it's not addressing all the right issues at the right time ... but we essentially believe that we've made most of the right decisions.' Stephen also expresses concern about the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots in Australia. He likens Australia's current polarisation with his grandfather's days; like Sidney, he believes business must be mindful if its civic and employment responsibilities.
Moments of cynicism about the Myer munificence tend to intrude when the lifestyles enjoyed by many of the family are observed. The Myers have grand houses, domestic staff, expensive cars, designer clothes and frequent overseas travel. It's not unknown for Myers to flit overseas merely to enjoy a birthday party in an unusual and exotic location. Those on the fringes of the family watch the lives led by some and mutter about the deadening hand of affluence. The commitment the second and third generation have to their working lives is variable. There are plenty of stories of Myers enjoying overseas sojourn (so-called 'sabbaticals') that last for months at a time. On the other hand, Lady Marigold Southey stands as a good example of Myer altruism - although her good work often doesn't involve money, but time. Lady Southey, Sidney's youngest child, is now in her early seventies. A Collin Street farmer of Hereford bulls and vines, she is also chair of Philanthropy Australia and Victoria's lieutenant-governor. Her office is based in the mansion the family has owned since they returned from the United States in 1929, Cranlana. In these spacious surroundings, tended by a contingent of domestic and gardening staff, marigold gets on with the business at hand. The position of lieutenant-governor suits her: she has a certain regal bearing and keeps a distance, preferring to be called lady Southey rather than Marigold by all but her family and closest friends. Once in a while her voice can be heard snapping orders at her assistant, but the impatience is momentary.
Lady Southey's strength of character shines when she leaves the pleasant surrounding of Cranlana and climbs into a garish orange ambulance. once a fortnight she swaps her immaculate clothes for a pale blue cotton dress and an ordinary red cardigan. This is her Red Cross uniform. for twenty-five years she has taken paralysed polio patient Jane Middleton out from her hospital bed for a day trip. June can move only one finger. From the age of twenty she has lived in hospital. These outings are one of the most pleasurable aspects of her difficult life. Driving the cumbersome ambulance, Marigold takes June wherever she wants to go: to the sea, the shops, the park, or even to Cranlana - June loves the tranquil garden. on these days Marigold is at June's beck and call. She feeds her, keeps her comfortable, swats away flies. and chats. They usually go out and buy a Scratch Lotto ticket, hoping to win a few dollars. for a woman in her seventies it's a long and tiring day, but Lady Southey is June's fiend and she believes she has a moral duty to give back to the less fortunate. The old-fashioned notion that 'from those to whom much is given, much is expected' still influences Lady Southey.
On a cold Friday morning in May 2001, the Myer Foundation is having one of its regular directors' meetings. Lady Marigold Southey is the chair, ever the responsible matriarch (the other matriarch, her elder sister Neilma, dislikes the formal and rather stuffy nature of Myer business, and frequently runs late for such meetings). The foundation was begun by Ken and Bails in 1958. Based on the Rockefeller foundation in the United States, it has a loose brief to benefit humankind. ken bequeathed a significant proportion of his estate to the foundation. Other foundation funds come from the member contributions (including dividend income) derived from the family investment company. Lady Southey fastidiously checks the details and protocol of each document presented to her by CEO Charles Lane. Despite all the directors being related, these meetings are highly professional and corporate. a key difference between this and other business boards, of course, is that here no one can be sacked, a situation that at times must cause problems. Certainly there is no sense that this is a cosy informal family get-together.
These meetings approve or reject funding requests from a variety of nonprofit organisations. The approach is more structured than in Sidney's days - no whimsical gifts to pet projects - but there is a more informed sense of what can make a difference. There are several philanthropic trusts in family hands, all coming under the umbrella of the Myer foundation, and each year the foundation donates between four and five million dollars to a vast assortment of social, cultural and environmental projects. Among many other causes, Myer money helps promote the environmental health of the snowy river, funds a plethora of performance groups and youth employment schemes, gives assistance to the homes and fosters an Aboriginal health service. A glance at the Myer foundation annual Report provides evidence of how seriously the family takes this work - and the usefulness of their donations. In a country where private and public social service is on the wane, the Myer family are justifiably proud of what they do.
Traditionally the Myers avoid projects that may be seen as too political or controversial. The family occupy a central place in Melbourne's social as well as business establishment. The days of sneering at one's Jewishness or retail origins have largely passed and have been replaced by a commercial pragmatism of which Sidney would have approved. Three generations of Myers are seated at the table, aged from mid-twenties to late seventies. The one board director from the fourth generation, the G4, is Vallejo Gantner. Vallejo, a T-shirted ebullient former law student, now an arts festival organiser, has been coming to meetings since he was at university, but his appointment as a director is relatively recent. he wants the G4 to 'shake up' the foundation; to inject it with a new commitment. The Myers all want the foundation, unlike the Myer 'Emporium, to sty in family hands and they know this can only be achieved with the youngsters' energetic involvement. The G4 have a certain street savviness. None has lived such well-tended lives as their grandparents. They were not raised in the care of countless butlers, nannies and maids as were Neilma, marigold, Bails and Ken. Their youthful smartness could prevent the foundation from becoming too staid. for Vallejo, the eldest of the G4, it's philanthropy that will bind the family together well into the future. Business is a cutthroat game, and philanthropy allows the family to come together to share more noble concerns.
So Vallejo, working with Charles Lane, came up with the idea of the fourth generation having their own good works committee looking after its own pot of money. The G4 committee operates within the foundation and introduces the generation to the foundation's activities. The committee is granted $100,000 a year to pump into projects they deem worthy and pressing. Both Charles and Vallejo want the G4 committee to draw its members into deep involvement in projects:' ... not just signing a cheque and washing your hands of it ... I guess hopefully we're setting the G4 up in a way that the members will actually love being part of a philanthropic thing for the rest of their lives.' Vallejo talks effusively of his hope that the fourth generation will liven things up, will provide new approaches to shake up the long-established way the family has gone about its philanthropy. He is the perennial joker, the party boy. He doesn't fit the stereotype of the do-gooder. Avoiding both the businessman 's suit or the plain clothes of most charity workers, he's more often bedecked in baggy pants and loud shirts that promote the boutique beer he's helped set up. Venture capitalist meets venture philanthropist. Like his great-grandfather, Vaallejo has an energy, a rakish charm and a determination that add up to a formidable presence. Luckily for the Myers he is currently hustling for the family's future philanthropic endeavours. Sitting at Vallejo's crowded kitchen table, far removed from the swish Myer offices, Vallejo and his younger brother Dash tend hangovers and discuss what it's like these days to be born into privilege. unlike others born to wealth, they appreciate some of its benefits without adopting the full-tilt materialism their money could buy. Instead they choose relatively unassuming lifestyles. 'No one wants to be Donald Trump,' says Vallejo with a characteristic sweep of his hand. 'no one wants to be in BRW or any of that garbage. It's not what we're seeking to do.' however, Vallejo admits he has a financial security that provides him with a certain freedom. 'We've not given trust funds with millions of dollars. That doesn't happen in my family anyway, and so I don't have things that are against my name worth a lot of money ... the money you might inherit you might not get until you're sixty, but it gives me the freedom to o out and do what i would like to do as an artist, and not have to worry as much as other people about my financial foundation.'
Dash is quieter than Vallejo and keen to distance himself from the rich kid tag. He doesn't exactly cry poor, but quibbles at the suggestion that he and his brother have lived privileged lives. By most criteria he has and he does, but along with the wealth Dash shares great-grandfather Sidney's sense of social responsibility. However, unlike the patriarch he had little interest in hoarding wealth; rather he believes the fourth generation have a responsibility to 'redirect that money ... in a way that would be beneficial to the community or the environment or the social good... I don't see the money as being directly connected to me.' And Vallejo chips in with agreement: 'I don't have a personal connection to whatever the Myer family wealth is. It's not something I've earned and it's not something I've done anything for.' The brothers share an education, and a confidence typical of the wealthy, but it doesn't carry through into arrogance. They don't subscribe to the consumer trappings that others in their position have chosen. Instead, Vallejo and Dash articulate the ideas the family wants to instill in the upcoming Myers. They've born to wealth but not spoiled by it. The visit to the detox centre was part of their education into philanthropy and of the handing down of the family values.
By 7 pm the young Myers troop out of Simon Rose's consulting room. The five boys have seen and heard enough. The doctor still has to see a handful of people patiently sitting in the waiting room; he won't be out of the office until around nine. His total dedication to the centre and the addicts who seek his help has impressed the Myers. They leave feeling more informed, excited by the possibility that Myer money can help. They, with the other members of the G4, decided to give their first rant to the centre, providing a much-needed boost of 10,000 pounds. The visit has been a success for first Step, and for the G4 as well. They've seen at first hand something of what their money can achieve, this family fortune established a great-grandfather who arrived in Australia with threepence in his pocket. While most of the wealthy have a reluctance to part with any portion of their money, the Myers are conscious of their good fortune and the implications of a certain responsibility to those less fortunate. Vallejo puffs animatedly on another cigarette before dashing off for a night out. 'I guess what i hope that we get out of the g4 committee in the foundation,' he says, 'in terms of how e end up as a family at all, but a collection of individuals who are really committed o the same set of goals in terms of working and helping the community.'
High above the street, Simcha Baevski smiles from his gil-edged frame. His store may be gone, but his dynasty is still bonded together by his altruism and an ironclad will. It is now up to the fourth generation to ensure the Myer legacy continues well in the twenty-first century.
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