ONE of Australia’s richest men, Paul Ramsay, has died, leaving most of his $ 3 billion fortune to charity in what’s believed to be the largest donation in Australian history.
The 78-year-old founder of Ramsay Health Care died in his home town of Bowral in NSW, a week after suffering a heart attack while sailing in Spain.
Mr Ramsay kept a relatively low public profile, but was Australia’s ninth richest man, due to his $ 3.3 billion stake in the global hospitals giant he founded in 1964.
Single with no children, Mr Ramsay directed the bulk of his estate be transferred to the Paul Ramsay Foundation, where it will be “of enduring benefit to the Australian community”, Ramsay Health Care said.
The foundation will retain the major shareholding in Ramsay Health Care, which will generate tens of millions worth of dividends each year.
Philanthropy Australia chief executive Louise Walsh said the size of the donation was unprecedented.
“It’s absolutely the biggest gift we’ve heard of, we’re not aware of a foundation that’s anywhere near that scale in Australia,” she said.
Ms Walsh hoped the donation would encourage other billionaires to follow Mr Ramsay’s example.
“This is a great precedent.”
Little is known about Mr Ramsay’s previous donations to charity, although he donated $ 300,000 to actor Kevin Spacey’s charity in 2011, buying an hour-long game of tennis with the actor and tickets to the closing Sydney performance of his Richard III production.
Ramsay Health Care is a known funder to many medical research groups, and charities for the young.
Friends and colleagues have paid tribute to Mr Ramsay, including Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes, who had a long association with Mr Ramsay during a 30 year stint as chairman of Seven’s regional affiliate Prime Media.
“Personally, I have lost a colleague and a very dear friend,” Mr Stokes said.
“He has however left a legacy of treasured memories.
“His businesses were like families to him and he achieved amazing results.
“There was never a cross word or a raised voice. That’s a miracle in our business.”
Mr Ramsay started Ramsay Health Care in 1964 when he purchased a guest house on Sydney’s north shore and converted it into a psychiatric hospital.
The company was floated in 1997 and now has more than 150 hospitals and clinics across Australia, Europe and Asia.
Mr Ramsay also owned a stake in soccer club Sydney FC and was the club’s chairman from 2009 to 2012.
He has been one of the Liberal Party’s biggest benefactors, having donated $ 615,000 to the party in 2011/12.
Mr Ramsay will be farewelled at a private family funeral, with a public memorial service to be held at a later date.