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Kenneth Baillieu (Ken) Myer (1921–1992)

Kenneth Baillieu Myer was proud of the fact that he had lived longest of any male in the Myer family. His father, Sidney Baevski Myer, died at 56 but left behind the Melbourne-based Myer Emporium, the company that revolutionised retail trade in Australia.

Sidney Myer's brother, Norman Baevski Myer, lived to be 58 and also contributed vastly to the burgeoning Myer empire.

Sidney's eldest son, Kenneth Myer, 71, died four days ago in a light plane crash in Alaska.

Mr Myer was on the way to a fishing expedition at an exclusive Alaskan reserve with prominent American Victor Raiser, 52, the national financial co-chairman of the Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton.

The plane crashed in a mountain pass and burst into flames, killing five of the seven occupants.

"It was almost inevitable that Ken, in his love of life, might well have had an accident like this," close friend George Fairfax said yesterday.

Mr Fairfax, who was general manager of the Victorian Arts Centre Trust when Mr Myer was chairman, said he was very fortunate to have worked with such an inspirational Australian.

"He was a remarkable man because he was an inspiration to everybody," Mr Fairfax said.

"I used to invite him in to talk to the staff so his enthusiasm would carry over to the enthusiasm of the staff.

"It was not a made up or pretended thing; it was a real interest. When he would come to a concert he was always so full of praise for the performers. It was a wholly sympathetic feeling for the arts."

Mr Myer, with the rest of the Myer family, was one of the most dedicated and generous arts patrons in the country.

His list of appointments, chairmanships and the like spans the National Library Council, the Sidney Myer Fund, the National Gallery of Australia and the National Gallery Society of Victoria.

He also served as chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation between 1983 and 1986.

Mr Myer will be remembered more for his legacy of retailing and the pivotal role he played in the construction of the Coles-Myer empire, Australia's largest retailer and the world's 13th-largest.

His father, Sidney, a Russian refugee, arrived in Melbourne in 1898 and wasted little time in laying the groundwork of the city's premier retail centre, the Myer Emporium. Now a household name, Myer was officially opened in 1917 and within eight years it was trebling its turnover.

Kenneth was born on March 1, 1921, at the height of his father's assault on the retailing industry. He was educated at Geelong Grammar and later at Princeton University in New Jersey, US.

He served in the Navy and, according to close friends, had a distinguished career before joining the board of the Myer organisation in 1946.

He served on the board of his father's company from then until 1982. He was appointed director of the merged Coles-Myer Ltd in 1985 and, by the time he retired in 1989, it had become a formidable national and international retailing force.

Coles-Myer company secretary Roger Thomas says Myer made "an enormous contribution" to the rapid growth and expansion of the retail giant.

Mr Myer won the International Retailers' Award in 1970, the highest accolade a retailer can receive from his or her global peers.

He also served as the international director of the US National Retailers Merchants Association between 1969 and 1979.

"He was a very well-liked man, a man of great good humour," Mr Thomas said.

"He was an outstanding Australian and a lovely bloke."

A committed philanthropist, Mr Myer also lent his talents to many urban and planning bodies, the Australian University Commission and even a parliamentary economics inquiry.

He was also devoted to the prestigious Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology and Medicine.

Coles Myer already had planned to honour a great man with the Kenneth Myer Information Centre at the Howard Florey as a mark of his contribution to the company. Now it will serve as a constant reminder of the life of one of Australia's most committed philanthropists.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Myer, Kenneth Baillieu (Ken) (1921–1992)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Ken Myer, 1990

Ken Myer, 1990

National Library of Australia, 24164172

Life Summary [details]


1 March, 1921
San Francisco, California, United States of America


30 July, 1992 (aged 71)
Alaska, United States of America

Cause of Death

air crash

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