Former Rich Lister John Schaeffer dies after being hit by ute – The Australian Financial Review

“A former trustee and Foundation trustee, his many major gifts of art to the Gallery were all made with the intelligent eye of a great collector,” Mr Brand said. “He will be deeply missed by the Australian arts community.”

Among Schaeffer’s gifts to the AGNSW are the Lord Frederic Leighton marble sculpture, An athlete wrestling with a python (1888-1891), donated to the gallery in 2017.

John Schaeffer at the Bonnington residence in Bellevue Hill he once owned. Supplied

Schaeffer migrated to Australia from Holland in 1960 and his first job was in a Woolworths store. When the store’s cleaner resigned, Schaeffer took on the business, developing it into a leading cleaning and security company, Tempo, which at its height employed about 23,000 people. By 2000 he debuted on the BRW Rich List, worth $110 million. But in the early 2000s his business hit troubled waters.

He rode the ups and downs of the business, and was known too as a serial buyer of Sydney’s trophy homes, and while debt and divorce at times whittled away his beloved art collection, as soon as he was financially able, he would start collecting again. His particular passion was for the art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood which he began to collect in the mid 1980s. He wore a gold signet ring from circa 1834 that had belonged to the English painter William Holman Hunt, a founder of the Pre-Raphaelites. Schaeffer paid £37,000 (AU$67,532) for the ring at a Bonhams’ auction in 2013, bidding way above the estimate of £1000 to £1500.

John Schaeffer and his partner, Bettina Dalton, in 2013. Lyn Mills

“He is going to be missed on so many levels,” said Brisbane-based art dealer Philip Bacon, who is also deputy chairman of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation Board, of which Schaeffer was a member. “He collected so widely and so well, and art was so much a part of his life. Those kind of people come around so rarely.”

Geoffrey Smith, the chairman of Smith & Singer auction house, described Schaeffer as “intense, passionate, focussed and articulate … our very own Antipodean Renaissance man”.


“His collecting was legendary and he haunted the auction rooms, commercial and public galleries of the world in search of the nourishment that great art has the possibility of providing the mind and soul,” Smith said. “He has shaped Australian culture and reignited our interest in the enduring and unique qualities of Pre-Raphaelite Art. The list of masterpieces by Australian and international artists were once cared for by John is truly astounding.”

Hamish Clark, head of Leonard Joel’s Sydney office, who had known Schaeffer for 30 years and had been working closely with him over the past few months in preparation for an upcoming of auction of his collection, said that his ““zest for life and his knowledge was amazing”.

The Victorian Rustic Gothic mansion Rona in Bellevue Hill. Domain

He will be missed by Sydney property agents, too. In 2002 he set a national record when he bought the Spanish mission-style trophy home Boomerang in Elizabeth Bay for $20.7 million. In 1989 he bought the neo-Gothic estate Rona in Bellevue Hill, ending more than a century of Knox family ownership, and, more recently, his briefly owned the F. Glynn Gilling-designed mansion Bonnington.

Schaeffer is survived by his partner, film producer Bettina Dalton, his daughter from his first marriage, Joanne Schaeffer, and three grandchildren.

Sydney art collector and businessman dies aged 79 – Sydney Morning Herald

Former Christie’s Australia chairman and managing director Roger McIlroy, who had sold much of Mr Schaeffer’s artworks including the contents of his historic mansion Rona in Bellevue Hill, described him as a “passionate collector”.

“He was also incredibly generous as a patron, even at times when he probably shouldn’t have been, given his various financial issues,” Mr McIlroy said. “John was passionate about art and passionate about sharing it, he wasn’t interested in the money, he was interested in the art.”

Mr Schaeffer’s first major art purchase was a Norman Lindsay painting he bought in the mid 1970s for a then record-setting $200,000.

He was a member of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation board as well as a life governor of the Art Gallery of NSW, which is home to the John Schaeffer wing that houses some of his collection.

“John’s support over 20 years came from a deep love and knowledge of our historical collections. His many major gifts of art to the gallery were all made with the intelligent eye of a great collector,” Art Gallery of NSW’s director Michael Brand said.

He is survived by his partner, film producer Bettina Dalton and his daughter Jo Schaeffer.

Mr Schaeffer died on Tuesday after being struck by a Ford Ranger utility vehicle on Macquarie Street, near St James Road before 5pm on Monday.

A spokesperson for St Vincent’s Hospital said Mr Schaeffer “passed away peacefully at 8.50pm on Tuesday 14 July, with his family by his side”.

The driver of the vehicle was granted conditional bail and will appear in court in August, where police will allege he reversed into the elderly man.

Mr Schaeffer mortgaged his house in 1971 to buy a small contract cleaning business called Tempo Services, which he built into a vast corporation until falling on hard times in the mid-2000s, resulting in him having to sell off much of his artwork and real estate to pay back millions of dollars to creditors.

Over the years, his collection has included 22 pieces from the Forbes family, including the Il Dolce far niente by one of Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood founders William Holman Hunt, which he sold in 2016 for more than £5 million.

In addition to his art, Mr Schaeffer was also known for his property portfolio.

He set the Australian record for the most expensive residential sale when he bought Boomerang, his Elizabeth Bay estate, for $20.7 million in 2002 after selling 10 million of his shares in Tempo.

In 2004, the sale of his Bellevue Hill estate Rona – which, when purchased, was Sydney’s most expensive home – for $20 million was Sydney’s fourth-highest residential property sale.

Thirteen years later he bought the F. Glynn Gilling-designed mansion Bonnington in Bellevue Hill for $20.5 million, which took in some of the original Rona property. It was Sydney’s second-highest auction sale.

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An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Mr Schaeffer had established Tempo Services.

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