Woman Holmes à Court, Janet (1943 - )

AC, AO, BSc. DipEd, HonDUniv, Hon DLitt, Hon. FAIB

Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Company Chairman and Philanthropist
Alternative Names
  • Ranford Lee, Janet (Maiden)

Written by Dorothy Erickson, Independent Scholar

Janet Lee Ranford, born in 1943, grew up in the hills behind Perth part of a leftwing arts oriented household. Her parents instilled in her an enduring love of art, music and theatre. The bright student won a scholarship to Perth Modern School before undertaking a science degree at the University of Western Australia where she was the only woman in her year to major in organic chemistry. Here as an activist student she met Robert Holmes à Court, a brilliant financial strategist who went on to become Australia's first billionaire. Janet taught science before marrying Robert in 1966 and raising four children whilst also being a supportive wife who worked in his office. Weekends were spent at Heytesbury Stud where Robert successfully bred race horses. As Robert built their fortune acquiring control over some 200 companies including TV Channel 7 in Perth and the largest media group in the United Kingdom, Janet was able to pursue her various interests and commenced what became a significant art collection. She has long been a supporter of Aboriginal art and opened the Holmes à Court Gallery which showed works from the extensive collection, many of which are loaned to public galleries round the world, as well as mounting exhibitions of interest. Another interest was their Vasse Felix winery which also has a gallery where the collection is now shown. She has used her wealth to support the arts and other causes such as research into cancer and diabetes and was a foundation supporter of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

The 1987 stock market crash saw a significant restructuring forcing the sale of their public company, Bell Group. Following Robert's untimely death three years later Janet became the chairman of the Heytesbury Group and set about reducing the empire to a manageable size. She judiciously acquired assets such as the John Holland construction company which she chaired until 2012 when the Board was replaced by an Advisory Board of which she is chairman. This complemented her vision for the group which, with hard work, she successfully steered through troubled times. As chair of Stoll Moss Theatres she refurbished the majority of London's theatres resulting in her being named British Business Woman of the Year in 1995. Paul Keating appointed her to the Board of the Reserve Bank 1994-7. She has also served as Pro Chancellor of the University of Western Australia, chaired the WA Symphony Orchestra board and the Australian Children's Television Foundation and was an Honorary Councillor of the Business in the Arts Foundation. Janet was a founding patron and chairman of Western Australia's Black Swan Theatre Company (now the State Theatre Company) and served on very many other boards too numerous to mention. In recent years her children have inherited and she has passed over the management of Heytesbury and Vasse Felix leaving her freer for her many commitments. A lively and engaging personality she was inducted into the Leading Business Entrepreneurs of the World (USA) in 1997, awarded a Lifetime Commitment Award by the WA State Arts Sponsorship Awards in 2003, the Richard Pratt Business Leadership Award by the Australian Business Arts Foundation in 2003 and many other awards for service to the community.

Published Resources


  • Edgar, Patricia, Janet Holmes à Court, Harper Collins Publishers, Sydney, New South Wales, 1999. Details

Edited Books

  • Who's Who in Australia, Crown Content, Melbourne, Victoria, 1927 - 2013. Details

See also