Australian Industrialist Dies
Jun. 28, 1999
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Peter Abeles, a poor immigrant who became a transport magnate and one of Australia's most influential businessmen, has died of cancer at age 75.
The former head of transport companies TNT Ltd. and Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. died at his home in Sydney on Friday, according to his secretary, Joy Anand.
Prime Minister John Howard said Abeles' death was a significant loss to the Australian business community.
``Sir Peter Abeles typified a group of European-born Australian entrepreneurs who as young people left a still war-devastated Europe to make a new life in Australia,'' Howard said. ``In the process they gave much to their new country.''
Sir Peter Emil Herbert Abeles was born in Vienna, Austria, on April 25, 1924, and grew up in Hungary.
He came to Australia in 1949, where with another Hungarian, George Rockey, he bought two trucks, affectionately named Samson and Delilah, and launched the Alltrans transport company.
TNT Ltd. was formed in 1967 when Alltrans merged with another trucking firm, Thomas Nationwide Transport.
Abeles rapidly expanded TNT, moving into the airline industry and taking on projects in Europe and the United States. By the 1980s TNT was a multinational corporation spanning 180 countries.
Abeles was knighted in 1972 by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to transport, charities and universities. In 1991, he became a companion in the Order of Australia, another honorary title bestowed by the queen.
Abeles joined forces with News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch to take over Ansett Transport Industries in 1979 and was joint managing director and chief executive between 1980 and 1992. He quit as managing director of TNT in 1992, concentrating his efforts on the loss-making Ansett.
Two months later, he stepped down as joint chief executive of Ansett, denying ill-health was a reason.
Bob Hawke, former prime minister and close friend of 30 years, said Abeles was ``a giant of a man.''
``He was extremely considerate to those less fortunate than himself and he was a passionate Australian,'' Hawke said.
Abeles is survived by his wife, Kitty, and one daughter.