Australian hat company Akubra has been acquired by Tattarang, the private investment company of Andrew and Nicola Forrest, in a move that is aimed at preserving the 147-year legacy of the brand.
The acquisition comes on the heels of a keen interest recently by the billionaires in iconic Australian brands after Tattarang acquired R.M.Williams from private equity group L. Catterton for about $190 million in 2020.
Earlier this year, Tattarang took a minority shareholding in fashion brand Camilla.
Akubra has been bought from the Keir family which has continuously owned and operated the business for five generations.
While financial details of the acquisition have not been disclosed, the Forrests say the deal will ensure that Akubra remains Australian owned and that it remains committed to local manufacturing.
Akubra hats are hand-made at the company’s workshop in Kempsey, NSW, which was built in 1972 and employs about 120 people.
“It’s hats off to the Keir family; it’s got to be hats on for Australia,” Andrew Forrest says in a LinkedIn post following the announcement of the acquisition.
“Australia is the winner out of this. Australia keeps a legacy at home with an organisation that is so proud to be Australian: so proud of our nation, our history, everything that our diggers have fought for.”
Forrest says he is humbled that Tattarang has been ‘entrusted with a company which is so important to Australia’s national identity’.
“Tattarang invests to ensure companies like Akubra remain Australian owned and we’re proud to be able to ensure the growth of Australian manufacturing, both protecting and creating new jobs, particularly in our regions.”
Nicola Forrest says she is committed to protecting and enhancing the company’s ‘amazing legacy’.
“Growing up in regional NSW, my parents taught me lifelong lessons about hard work and resilience,” she says.
“The image of my father's tireless energy and perseverance, measured by the sweat on his Akubra, remains etched in my memory.”
“An Akubra has always been part of my life and, as a new custodian, I am excited to help new generations discover this treasured Australian icon.”
Outgoing Akubra chairman Stephen Keir IV says the family has put its faith in Tattarang to be a custodian that will 'protect and invest in the company'.
“We thought long and hard about selling the business after five generations of family ownership and after we saw how the Forrests have invested in local manufacturing with R.M.Williams we decided they were the right custodians for Akubra,” Keir says.
The Keir family’s ties to Akubra date back to 1904 when Stephen Keir I joined the company, which was established in Hobart in 1876.
The company’s brand is steeped in Australian history with the hats featured in films such as The Man from Snowy River, while the hats have been a staple for many Australian Olympic team uniforms. The company also has revealed that it has delivered more than two million hats to the Australian Armed Forces over the years.
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