John Rothwell AO | Austal


08 March 2024
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John Rothwell AO | Austal

Joining our series for an exclusive & in-depth profile on this episode is highly regarded businessman & entrepreneur, John Rothwell AO - Non-Executive Chair, Founding Director & the driving force behind Austal, the World’s largest aluminium shipbuilding company.

Having established Austal in Perth, Western Australia in 1988 with no more than five employees & $200,000 in cash, John has grown the company over the past three decades into a global maritime behemoth with over 4,300 personnel delivering over 350 world-class vessels as well as technological solutions for military, commercial and civilian applications - including for the United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, United States Marine Corps, Royal Australian Navy, Australian Customs, Government of Saudi Arabia & Euroferrys to name a few.

With a customer base that spreads across more than one-hundred operators in fifty-nine Countries, Austal has become one of the most successful businesses in Australian corporate history, with an order book in excess of $2bn per annum, operations spread across seven shipyards in five countries and a share register that includes blue-chip institutional & private companies including BlackRock, Tattarang Ventures, UniSuper, Vanguard & Pendal.

As Founding Director of Austal, John has led the business in various capacities throughout its thirty-six-year history including as Chief Executive Officer, Executive Chairman and since 2008, Non-Executive Chairman.

Prior to launching Austal, John founded a small structural engineering company which later became a leisure craft business known as Star Boats in 1972, a company that upended traditional boat-building practices by utilising aluminium rather than fibreglass for its lightweight hulls and which he grew for over a decade before selling to Christopher Skase backed Precision Marine (now Quintex Corporation) in 1984.

On a personal level, John migrated aged ten with his family from Holland in 1954 and completed three years of primary / secondary school before entering the workforce at fifteen - over the course of the following eight or so years, he held a number of roles working in steel fabrication, welding, transport & land clearing. 

In a highly decorated career, John been the recipient of a number of awards including Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2004, Australian Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 2002, Western Australia Citizen of the Year in 1999.

In this exclusive interview, John walks us through his remarkable career, the evolution of Austal over the course of more than three decades, the opportunities & challenges in running a global manufacturing business from Australia and the fundamentals required to achieve sustained success in both business and life.


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Ready Media Group
Ready Media Group

Ready Media Group provides up-to-date business and industry content covering the latest transaction activity, exclusive insights and interviews with thought leaders from across Australia.

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