Mini Bio: Geoff 'Mr Woodside' Donaldson

Bec Fary / July 05, 2013 12:23 PM

Respected business giant and Who’s Who entrant John Geoffrey ‘Geoff’ Donaldson has died aged 99. 


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Born in 1913, Geoff grew up in Heidelberg.

“It was a country village then,” he said in an interview at Scotch College.

“I used to milk two jersey cows in the morning and then ride a horse to primary school.”

In keeping with his country roots, Geoff would later go on to own 2,800 acres of land near Bairnsdale.

Described as a “giant in the Australian corporate scene”, Geoff grew more than 40cm in his four years at Melbourne’s Scotch College, from 1927-1930, and stood two metres tall until his death late last week.

Despite leaving school during the Great Depression, Geoff landed a job at Perpetual Trustees before rising to become a senior Trust Officer.

In 1939 he left for war service, and while still a soldier he had the foresight to buy a stock exchange seat in 1943, establishing a career trajectory which would last more than 30 years.

After the war Geoff showed remarkable aptitude as a broker. His company, Donaldson & Lynch, underwrote many others including Woodside Petroleum.

Nicknamed ‘Mr Woodside’, Geoff went on to become appointed Chairman of Woodside Petroleum, which was Australia's largest-ever resource development company for more than 28 years.

Geoff was also Chairman of Mid-East Minerals, Vamgas and Ramsay Surgical, and  a director of Santos, Besser Vibrapack, John Sackville & Sons and RVB Engineering.

“Whenever I was elected to a board, I always tried to encourage the company to show strong, steady growth, while keeping costs down,” he said.

Geoff had the honour of becoming Australia's second business person to be written up in  Fortune magazine and even graced the cover of Asian Banking magazine, heralded as “Australia’s billion dollar man”.

Geoff won the Victorian Government’s Hanslow Cup for pioneering water conservation techniques, and was awarded the Order of Australia in 1985 and the Lewis G Weeks Gold Medal for his services to Australian business.

A father to three sons, John, Richard and David, and husband to wife Alison, Geoff leaves behind five grandsons and four granddaughters. 

Sources: Scotch College Melbourne, The Age.  

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