THE DEMISE OF Gunns in the spring of 2012 was as much a psychological shock to Tasmanians as it was economic. Alongside cricket stars Ricky Ponting and ‘Boonie’, Gunns had become the best-known Tasmanian. On 25 September 2012, Gunns went into voluntary administration after its creditors, who were owed more than $500 million, refused to bankroll the business any longer. Gunns had posted a $904 million loss for the 2011/2012 financial year and had been in a trading halt since March 2012 with a share price of just sixteen cents. The shareholders are now unlikely to see any of their investment returned. The announcement that Gunns would go into administration also resulted in more than six hundred job losses, about three hundred of which were in Tasmania. This effectively marked the end of one of Tasmania’s most successful businesses.
Founded in Launceston in 1875 by brothers John and Thomas Gunn, the business quickly grew with interests in timber trading, sawmilling, building, brickmaking and hardware. According to Tom Gunn, the historian great-grandson of John Gunn, by the turn of the twentieth century Gunns ‘was one of the first companies in Australia to become an integrated business’.[i] At one point, Tom Gunn explains, you could walk into the company’s office in Launceston with title to a block of land and they could design and build you a house from the ground up to put on it. [ii]
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