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William Vestey, 1st Baron Vestey

William Vestey, 1st Baron Vestey

British businessman (1859-1940)
William Vestey, 1st Baron Vestey
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro British businessman (1859-1940)
Was Businessperson Politician
From United Kingdom
Type Business Politics
Gender male
Birth 21 January 1859
Death 10 December 1940 (aged 81 years)
Star sign Aquarius
Mother: Hannah Uttley
Father: Samuel Vestey
Children: Samuel Vestey, 2nd Baron VesteyGeorge Ellis VesteyLeonard VesteyFrank Vestey
The details


William Vestey, 1st Baron Vestey (21 January 1859 – 10 December 1940) was an English shipping magnate.


Early life

William Vestey was born on 21 January 1859. He came from an old Liverpool family of traders. In 1876, at the age of seventeen, he was sent to Chicago by his father Samuel Vestey, a provisioner of Liverpool.


He first managed a meat canning factory that was financed by his father. Together with his younger brother Edmund, he established Vestey Brothers (which later became the Vestey Group) in 1897 from a family butchery business in Liverpool. They were pioneers of refrigeration, opening a cold store in London in 1895.

The Vestey brothers then went to South America in an attempt to make a fortune because the economy there was booming. They started by buying game birds and storing them in the cold stores of American companies before shipping them to Liverpool. These early activities soon developed into importing beef and beef products into the UK, which in turn led to them owning cattle ranches in Brazil, Venezuela and Australia, and their own meat processing factories in Argentina, Uruguay (Frigorífico Anglo del Uruguay), New Zealand and Australia. In 1914, they built a meat processing works at Bullocky Point, Darwin, Australia, but closed its operations in 1920 after the Darwin Rebellion. The Vestey Group's cattle station in Australia was the focus of a landmark strike in the 1960s, the Gurindji strike, which was instrumental in Indigenous Australians regaining rights to their land.

In 1915, the brothers, after being refused a request for income tax exemption made to David Lloyd George, moved to Buenos Aires to avoid paying income tax in the UK. The family later administered the business through a Paris trust that enabled it to legally avoid UK tax until the loophole was closed in 1991. From 1915 to 1918, they moved to Chicago then to Argentina and back to England. Lord Vestey later became an important benefactor to Liverpool Cathedral, where he funded the building of the bell tower.

During World War I another Vestey company, the Blue Star Line (now part of P&O Nedlloyd), was a major supplier of Argentine beef to England, and it was for this service to the wartime provisioning of England that William Vestey was later raised to the peerage. He was made a Baronet of Bessémer House in the Metropoliton Borough of Camberwell on 21 June 1913, and Baron Vestey, of Kingswood in the County of Surrey on 20 June 1922. Wave Hill Station is located approximately 600 kilometres south of Darwin in the Northern Territory. Vesteys, a British company which ran the cattle station, employed local Aboriginal people, mostly Gurindji. Working and living conditions for Aboriginal people were very poor. The wages of Aboriginal workers generally were controlled and not equal to those paid to non-Aboriginal employees. An attempt to introduce equal wages for Aboriginal workers was made in 1965, but in March 1966 the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission decided to delay until 1968 the payment of award wages to Aboriginal workers in the cattle industry. In August 1966, Vincent Lingiari, a Gurindji spokesman, led a walk-off of 200 Aboriginal stockmen, house servants, and their families from Wave Hill as a protest against the work and pay conditions. The strike was part of a widespread campaign begun by workers on Brunette Downs Station and supported by non-Indigenous people, including unionists and the author Frank Hardy. The protesters camped at Wattie Creek (Daguragu) and sought the return of some of their traditional lands to develop a cattle station. The Governor-General in 1967, and leaders toured Australia to raise awareness about their cause. In 1972, Prime Minister Whitlam announced that funds would be made available for the purchase of properties that were not on reserves, and Lord Vestey offered to surrender 90 square kilometres to the Gurindji people. Daguragu was acquired by the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission and, on 16 August 1975 at Daguragu, Prime Minister Whitlam transferred leasehold title to the Gurindji, symbolically handing soil to Vincent Lingiari. The Gurindji campaign was an important influence on the events leading to passing the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory) 1976. The Central Land Council applied on behalf of the Gurindji under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 for traditional land comprising the Daguragu pastoral lease and some adjacent un-alienated Crown land. In 1981 the Aboriginal Land Commissioner recommended that the land claim should be granted. The claim relating to the South West Corner was granted in 1985.

Personal life

His first wife died in 1923 and was buried in Liverpool Cathedral. He then married Evelene Brodstone of Superior, Nebraska, on 1 August 1924. She had been working as a stenographer with the Vestey Meat Packing Plant in Chicago, where she was spotted by his brother. She would rise through the company, eventually becoming the highest paid female executive in the world. On 24 July 1941, the 2nd Lady Vestey was buried at Evergreen Cemetery of Superior in Nebraska. Each spring during memorial weekend, Superior holds the annual Lady Vestey Festival in her honor. This is the town's largest annual celebration and it attracts many people from around the area.


  • Phillip Knightley The Rise and Fall of the House of Vestey, on the business empire established by William Vestey in 1897;
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 14 Jun 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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