SYDNEY, SEPT. 2 -- Robert Holmes a Court, a cunning corporate raider who amassed huge stakes in several major U.S. corporations before losing an estimated $1.4 billion in the October 1987 stock market crash, died of a heart attack today. He was 53.
The former lawyer was known as a shrewd but polite businessman, but he made his biggest mark as a corporate raider. He earned the nickname "Great Acquirer" as chairman of Bell Resources Group, which he built into an empire based on rising asset values in transportation, media, entertainment and building supplies.
During the 1980s, Holmes a Court amassed a stake of nearly $1 billion in U.S. oil giant Texaco Inc., bought large interests in the British bank Standard Chartered and steelmaker USX Corp. and made four unsuccessful bids for BHP, Australia's largest company.
He also owned two newspapers, a television station and a radio network.
The 1987 crash hit Holmes a Court hard, but he staged a strong comeback. In May he became Australia's largest landowner when his private company, Heytesbury Holdings Ltd., bought control of the country's largest cattle ranch. The company leases an area about the size of England and Wales combined.
Australian Business magazine reported that his personal wealth swelled by 66 percent last year to $500 million, calling it a "tribute to his ability to salvage a personal fortune from a public debacle."
He is survived by his wife and four children.