Chairman Rob Millner’s speech given at the ASX in celebration of WHSP’s 120th Listing Anniversary
Good morning and thank you for being here to celebrate 120 years of being listed, at the very place where we launched our company to the public.
It was the 21st of January 1903 when the first shares were offered, for £1.
Soul Patts had 21 stores under its banner then, but our story started earlier than that, in 1886 when Lewy Pattinson my great-grandfather founded Pattinson & Co, opening his first pharmacy in Balmain, Sydney.
Lewy became good friends with Caleb Soul, and his son, Washington Soul, who also had successful pharmacy operations before him. Some years later, Washington approached Lewy to buy out the company he and his father built.
Despite Pattinson & Co being three times larger and more profitable, Lewy named the merged entity Washington H. Soul Pattinson and Company out of respect to his friends.
This goodwill has followed the company throughout the century that followed, and it is my great privilege to continue the Soul Patts legacy as its seventh chairman.
I represent the fourth generation of the family, and my son Tom Millner who sits on our board is the fifth.
Without good people, you don’t have the kind of success we’ve had, so I’d like to thank our direct employees; our indirect employees of the many investments we proudly own (in whole or in part); and of course, our supportive shareholders who have trusted us with their money.
It’s wonderful to have many of you in the room today as we reflect on our track record… in particular the many employees, past & present.
Bruce Bagley, who unfortunately was a late apology in attending today, is to be acknowledged for spending his entire career with our company. Bruce first joined in 1960. By 1966 he was managing our first export division, and later became General Manager of Pharmacy. He was appointed to our board in 1979.
Jeremy Dixson was a former board director appointed in 1992. Jeremy’s great-grandfather, Sir Hugh Dixson, was in fact the first outside director appointed to the board at the time of our listing in 1903. Jeremy’s father also served as Deputy Chairman of Soul Patts in 1969.
David Fairfull and Peter Robinson were both long term employees of Soul Patts. Peter was our CEO before Todd Barlow, while David was the first Managing Director of our investment firm, Pitt Capital Partners.
Both David and Peter served on the Soul Patts Board and joined me on the boards of some of our major investments at the time, including Australian Pharmaceutical Industries, New Hope Group, and NBN Television to name a few.
And I’d like to acknowledge Michael Millner the former Deputy Chairman of Soul Patts, and currently my fellow director on the Brickworks Board. Our more recent directors in Robert Westphal and Warwick Negus are also here with us today.
Additionally, the current Board of Directors – Josephine Sukkar, David Baxby, Joe Pollard, Tom Millner, Michael Hawker, and Tiffany Fuller – who, along with our management team, have helped to implement significant transformation at our company. This included the decision to sell down our remaining 19% stake in the Soul Pattinson Chemist operations to Wesfarmers, when they acquired Australian Pharmaceutical Industries in 2021.
This same year, we merged our business with Milton, the third-largest listed investment company in Australia, creating a $11-plus billion dollar investment conglomerate. I’m pleased to say we’ve continued our performance track record since then and rewarded our shareholders with growing dividends.
I’d like to acknowledge a few of the former Milton Board of Directors also here today.
John Church, former Board Director for 30 years, whose father Fred Church founded Milton in 1938. Frank Gooch, former Managing Director of Milton serving for some 20 years before Brendan O’Dea succeeded him. Brendan is now our Chief Investment Officer. Also acknowledging former directors here today, Graeme Crampton, and Kevin Eley.
So, again I say a big thank you to our very loyal staff, many of you serving Soul Patts for long periods – our CEO Todd Barlow will soon be hitting the 20 year mark with Dave Scammell, Managing Director of Pitt Capital Partners, not far behind him.
Some of our current employees have been with us for 15 years – Brent Smith and Dean Price. Brent manages our Strategic Portfolio, and Dean manages our Emerging and Structured Yield Portfolios.
Our success is founded on a simple formula: good people, a common-sense approach, and having cash ready to invest. We are passionate about growing the wealth of our shareholders – something we intend to continue doing for many more years to come… and I thank you all for attending today.