Updated: Oct 14
From humble beginnings, Don Argus arguably became the finest business and banking brain in Australia. He was the son of a linotype operator from Bundaberg who had worked his way up to managing editor of The Gympie Times. After moving to Scarborough, Don's father Doug owned the first house in Scarborough to be connected to the newly created sewerage scheme in 1949.
Don's early schooling was at Scarborough State School from 1947 to 1952, where he showed great promise as a student.
1952 Hockey team. Back row.: R. Gynther Ernie Gould, Ray Milner A. Twible , B.Hood Robert Hall, Ron Torrenbeck
Front Row: Don Argus L. Searle, R. Good B. Adams, G. Webber. N. Grant , K. Stutz.
On the sports field he also showed prowess as a hockey player and coach of Redcliffe Hockey Club and later playing for Queensland under 21's in 1959 and representing the state in that sport from 1961 to 1970.
Redcliffe Hockey Team - 1973 Brisbane Hockey Premiers
Back Row: Graham Barnes, John Swift, Nev Browning, Don Argus (Coach) Greg Browning, Rob Somers (Capt) Vern Jensen. Front Row: Bob Bullock, Peter Doherty, Les Somers, David McNulty, Ian Barsby, Greg Meyer, John Franklin.
Argus spent much of his early career in the banking industry. He was credited with leading National Australia Bank (NAB) to recovery from a difficult period in the late 1980s and was the Executive Director Banking at NAB prior to succeeding Neil Clark as chief executive officer on 1 October 1990, having been at the bank since the 1956. During his leadership market capitalisation grew from A$5.5 billion to a peak of A$37 billion. EPS growth in that period grew at a rate of 128%.
Argus joined the board of BHP in 1996, assuming the role of chairman in 1999, at which time the market capitalisation was A$17.28 billion. During his stewardship he oversaw the formation of a dual listed companies (DLC) structure between BHP and Anglo–Dutch miner Billiton and at the time of his retirement in 2010, BHP Billiton had a combined market capitalisation of A$226.5 billion.
Former positions held include member of the international advisory board of Allianz, member of the international advisory committee to the New York Stock Exchange board of directors and was also a part of the board of the winemaker Southcorp but resigned following its acquisition of Rosemount.
Argus was also co-chair of the Policy Transition Group on Mining Resources Rent Tax for the Australian Government (2010) and chaired what was to become known as the “Argus Review” into the Australian Cricket Team’s performance commissioned by Cricket Australia (2011). In 2007 he was named one of the most influential figures in Australian business by The Bulletin magazine.
Argus is a senior fellow (SF) of Financial Services Institute of Australasia (Finsia), a Fellow of Certified Practising Accountants Australia (CPA) and an alumnus of Harvard Business School (AMP). He has been awarded honorary degrees from Monash University (Doctor of Laws), Griffith University (Doctor of the University) and the University of Queensland (Doctor of Business)
Argus was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1998 for "service to banking and finance, particularly as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Australia Bank Ltd and for his contributions as a member and supporter of a wide range of community and sporting organisations".
He was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001 for "service to Australian society through business".
In the Australia Day Honours of 2010, he was raised to Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), for "eminent service to business and commerce through leadership in the mining and finance industries, and to the community through the promotion of philanthropy, and executive roles in conservation, health, charitable and sporting organisations".
Argus was inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame in 2009.
He has many sporting interests and holds an International Coaching Certificate of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) and is a Life Member of the Redcliffe Hockey Club. He is also a member of the Camberwell Hockey Club, Kingston Heath Golf Club, Sorrento Golf Club and the Queensland Cricketer’s Club.
Don Argus is listed on the wall of the Redcliffe Wall of Fame:
A collection of portrait and information honouring the achievements of individuals who have influenced and shaped Redcliffe. The collection is in the Jetty Arcade at 139-141 Redcliffe Parade.
For a complete list of people who appear on the wall click on the following blog post: