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Haines, George Alexander (1931–1994)

by Ian McIlwraith

George Haines, the man charged with steering the troubled Adelaide Steamship flotilla after it almost foundered on a reef of debt-funded acquisitions, died in Sydney yesterday aged 62. 

The plain-speaking Mr Haines, who stepped down as chief executive of the Adsteam companies in mid-1993, was still chairman of National Consolidated and Australian Oil & Gas Corporation. 

He took over the running of the Adsteam group in early 1991, from the charismatic Mr John Spalvins, at a time when it was burdened with more than $7 billion in debt and hamstrung by the shrinking value of its cross-shareholdings. 

Under his leadership, Adsteam successfully negotiated the largest-ever refinancing by the Australian banking system, buying time for an orderly realisation of assets. 

Despite the demands on both his time and health, Mr Haines was able to achieve a string of successful disposals and capped his departure as an executive with what is still Australia's largest float – the $2.4 billion public issue of Woolworths. 

Adsteam's chairman, Mr Peter Cottrell, yesterday paid tribute to Mr Haines as a man of great determination. 

"His determination and own personal courage has been reflected in the way he handled his declining health,'' he said. 

Mr Haines's capacity to explain Adsteam's problems and plans to anxious and often irate investors at shareholder meetings in the relaxed style of the seasoned yarn-spinner in a public bar was used to great effect at shareholder meetings. 

Mr Haines, who was educated at Sydney's Fort Street Boys High School, learned accounting by correspondence and went on to specialise in the hotel and leisure industries. 

In the late 1970s he had only just moved in at the head of then brewing group Tooth & Co when Mr Spalvins' DJ's Properties turned up on the share register. 

Mr Haines defended the brewer against the Adsteam raid, but when Mr Spalvins ultimately succeeded, Mr Haines stayed on, running Tooth, and, finally, the entire Adsteam group. 

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and three children.

Original publication

  • Age (Melbourne), 25 March 1994, p 21

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Citation details

Ian McIlwraith, 'Haines, George Alexander (1931–1994)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/haines-george-alexander-27550/text35473, accessed 18 November 2018.

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