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Family Confidential -

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(generated from captions) (Upbeat music) For over 50 years, the Hemmes family and sophistication. has been synonymous with style the House Of Merivale and Mr John. First, in fashion with And now a leading light and hospitality business. in the entertainment is everything, But in a world where presentation it doesn't pay to be camera shy. any publicity at all. Bettina and I are dead against And the boys, they think it's OK. It's just the nature of the beast. don't put ourselves out there. We certainly are the showmen. The men in the family peacocks and playboys. They've been branded a very enjoyable life. (Laughs) I've had Let's leave it at that. for business, I think the fact that I started it to get the attention. that's why we did it, But out of the spotlight, a tight-knit circle of four. they've always remained a private family, To me it's always been and that's how family should be. But even in a perfect world, an explosive mix. family and flamboyance can make for ..New Zealand to see you. Hey, excuse me! saying, you know, I'm your brother. What sort of a fool is this guy They were pretty nasty. I don't forgive very easily. know about it. I suppose I didn't really want to is hosting a gala dinner Tonight, the Hemmes family known as Ivy. in their vast urban playground hospitality empire, Ivy is the jewel in the family's $500 million, a company worth a reported and named in honour of its matriarch Merivale Hemmes. and creative inspiration, the company the Merivale Group, When the family decided to call of what we'd done in the past, it was an acknowledgement which was fantastic, really. is now in charge. The baby of the clan, Justin, Oh, it looks gorgeous. And like his father John before him, face of the family business. Justin has become the self-assured the people start coming in, Make sure it's working and when go back to the beginning. between the fashion business There are certainly similarities that my parents were in that we're in now. and the hospitality business and everything that we do, We're a very proud family it is on show. Perfect. But these confident displays upbringing of the family's patriarch, belie the truth of the insecure John Hemmes. I was born in Surabaya, East Java. for the government My father was a doctor so he was moved around a lot. Our family was my father and mother younger than I am. and my sister who is 3.5 years very strict. My father was old-fashioned, I didn't see much of him. he wasn't affectionate. My father wasn't a loving man, so I was very close to my mother My mother was, to my father. but I wasn't all that close Dutch East Indies in 1942, When World War II came to the went from bad to worse. John's difficult childhood with a lot of Japanese soldiers One day a truck would arrive and they took us away from our home to a concentration camp. and drove us the street and a Japanese officer Well, the rules, if you walk along comes towards you, stand still and bow 90 degrees. 20 feet away from you, you have to they only bowed 45 degrees, Some people were cheeky, so they slapped them around a bit. from them once, yeah. I had a good beating from his mother At the age of 11, John was separated in a boys-only camp and had to fend for himself for nearly two years. in a concentration camp Having the experience gives you low esteem. never allowed to learn anything And we were inferior because we were over all those years. the Japanese concentration camp. Ah, this is my number from 10342. we were not a person. We were just a number, wanted to immigrate to Australia, Five years after the war ended, John but his father wouldn't let him. 'Can I please come to Australia,' I asked him, to go to New Zealand and he said, 'No, I want you for you.' because it's much calmer there down there in Australia,' He said, 'The women are very wild 'That's why I want to go there.' and I said, and migrated to New Zealand Well, I left Holland when I was 19 I never finished high school, and I was very ill-prepared because couldn't speak English very well. I never learned a trade and I labourer, I was a wharfie, I was a butcher, I was a builder's I did every job under the sun, and higher wages. just chasing overtime came a few nice clothes With a little money started to grow. and John's confidence So, we always wanted to look good. but we started to pick up girls. I don't want to say this, John wasn't going anywhere fast After three years in New Zealand, to Amsterdam, so he decided to head back coming to Sydney first. but to do so meant It was his luckiest break of all. everybody coming on the boat When I arrived in Sydney, I watched absolutely gorgeous blonde girl, when I saw this blonde girl, walking up the gangplank. and wanted to meet her. I was intrigued any gentlemen. Oh, no, I don't want to meet a nice trip overseas I just wanted to go on really meet anybody. and I didn't want to Oh, he was too fast for my liking. like him too much at all. I didn't, kind of, I think I fell in love with her walking up that gangplank. the minute I saw her lasting six weeks, After a whirlwind romantic cruise John and Merivale married in London. in Australia Nine months later they were back house in Sydney's western suburbs. and living at Merivale's parents' Australian people, I suppose. My parents were just normal They were both hard workers. The two newlyweds settled down at the back of the house. in a converted garage between a self-taught milliner And so began a shared enterprise without a trade. and an ambitious Dutchman I kept on working but in-between, I would sell the hats. in the morning and the afternoon, anybody else She was making more hats than about three hats a week, because a modern milliner only makes she was making 15 to 18 hats a week. Yes, they were very elaborate. All race hats. Tailored, a good line on them and it was very interesting, very satisfying work, actually. Department stores were selling Merivale's hats for about ?18 each, more than the average weekly wage. Recognising an opportunity, the pair decided to set up their own hat shop with John as the over-counter salesman. Oh, the word was flying around, you know - 'This is a funny couple here.' This guy selling hats was really unusual in the early '50s. My heart was in the work because she made such beautiful hats and I was totally dedicated to her creations. When the '60s came around, John and Merivale branched out and started selling clothes by well-known designers. Oh, the '60s was the best time of all. I mean, everything was new, everything was happening. The mini has certainly come up in the world since The Shrimp offended Melbourne racegoers a few years ago. And it's ironic that fashion designers are making more money than ever before. by producing a smaller product It was a time of rebellion against conservative fashion, and John and Merivale were there to explode it. Nobody wanted to do the mini. All the dresses were too long and I was asking for them to be shorter. It's nice to see a girl's figure. So, with John's encouragement, Merivale started designing and making her own clothing range. The House Of Merivale was soon churning out threads for the groove set. Our customers were our biggest promoters. They looked good in it and everyone wanted to come to Merivale. You couldn't buy it in the shops anywhere, so that's how I wanted to dress for myself. Some people thought I was really crazy. Next came Mr John, bringing boutique fashion for the new-look man. And that was very successful too. Thank goodness. I had pretty cool parents. Going into the shop as a young child was just, it was kind of like a fantasy land. I remember the disco kind of era in a big way. So there was lots of mirrors, sequined cat suits, and the girls especially, were really wild with their dressing. Yeah, it was just full-on. Merivale, of all the gear shops in Sydney and Melbourne, you've probably been the most successful. You started nine years ago and now you have four shops and you're running a million-dollar enterprise. How was it that when you started, you succeeded where so many dropped out? Oh, because of the love of it. We really enjoy what we're doing and we put everything in it and we're perfectionists, and I think this is why. Oh, this is special, Mum. I remember you wearing this when you were pregnant with Jus. Oh, it's miniscule. I know. Oh, Mum, how tiny were you? And Mum, there's an amazing photo of you and Dad and you've got this jacket on and you've got the drawn-on eyelashes. Oh, yes! And Dad's standing behind you. I love that photo. John and Merivale had become the symbol of a generation epitomising all that was liberating and new. But behind the brand was a hardworking couple. They are the perfect yin and yang, absolutely perfect. Dad's had that drive and really pushed the business, and Mum has had the creativity. Well, Merivale's part in the business is huge because it was her talent that we used to make this business a success. And with success came a small fortune. By 1975, the family had moved into one of Sydney's most exclusive harbourside mansions. It was a place that John and Merivale's second child, Justin, was to call home. And I think it's just a king's wish, isn't it, to have a son and a daughter? In hindsight, when I look back, I had an incredible upbringing. My mother was this, you know, cutting-edge, colourful, wonderful, exciting person and the same with Dad. Dad, I guess he was the peacock because he was the salesman of the partnership between Mum and Dad, and selling is about presentation and showmanship. But when it came to his children, John never let style get in the way of his traditional views on discipline and hard work. John is, he's very hard, he's very strict, but he's very soft as well. So he's got the two sides of him. Like, I've seen times when he's been so hard on Justin, I couldn't stand it. When I did do something wrong and I was reprimanded for it, I certainly never did it again. By the time Justin was 19 he had finished university and was working seven days a week for his father. But John's determination to see his son achieve would backfire. Well, I think I might've been a bit demanding. I wanted him to come to work early, leave late. That's what we used to do, you see. There was a time when I wasn't in there at 8:30 in the morning on a Sunday morning and he rang me and he as quite, um... ..upset, to say the least, that I wasn't in the office and to me it was, 'Oh, this is... this can't go on.' And he disappeared, we didn't know where he was. He left. I literally went to my closet and grabbed a few shirts and T-shirts and stuff and threw it in the back of my car and then I went to a mate's house and slept on his couch for, oh, I think it was about a month or so. I was very upset. It was like the end of the world for me, it was so bad. Father reacted in a very, ah, in an incredible way, to the point where he went from this very tough businessman to dropping all of that, and all he wanted was for him to have the connection with his son again. I think the lack of the love I received from my father, that has given me the drive to give all my love to my children and to my family. I just turned it around. So, Justin returned from the wilderness, back into the family fold. He was secure in his father's blessing but his flamboyant lifestyle was now earning him a reputation of his own. Yeah, Jus loves fast cars and boats and, gosh, what guy doesn't? I suppose, he can have them, so maybe that's why he gets picked on. COMMENTATOR: Justin Hemmes is up on the tyre wall in the Uber-Star car. I love a fast life. I love adrenaline sports. That's the type of person I am. I just, I love those things. So, I guess you're going to carry that playboy image as well. But I've had some very long-term relationships. You know, I think it's just an image that stuck. But that image would threaten to become much more than just gossip and innuendo when in February 2000, rumours of a playboy past came back to haunt not Justin, but his father. REPORTER: John Young, a union official from New Plymouth is trying to track down one of Sydney's richest men. After a nine-year search, a 47-year-old New Zealander arrived in Sydney with a television crew in tow, determined to find his natural father. I think what made me angry is that virtually for 21 years I lived a lie. Good morning. Is John Hemmes there? That guy, his father died and then the mother said, 'Well, he's not really your real father.' She said, 'You have a real father in Sydney who's made a lot of money.' And that's why he tried to get onto me. My main goal is to prove the paternity. No money in the world will change that goal. They were pretty nasty. They were chasing me down in the hotel CBD. ..New Zealand to see you. Whether this person was or wasn't my brother, I don't want to associate myself with a creep that turns up and confronts you with a camera crew with these allegations. Stop it, please. Can you leave, please? I suppose it was a bit of a shock to hear. You know, the fact that it was long before he met my mum, I just, I suppose I didn't really want to know about it. But the confrontation would lead right to the family's front door. Yeah, I'm looking for John. John Hemmes. No, he's not here. Are you Merivale? No, I'm not. Oh, OK. I don't forgive very easily and it was a shock for me too, of course. It wasn't a very pleasant time. The story made headlines but was never reported on Australian television. The family took out a court injunction to stop it from going to air. Merivale was very upset. And... ..we just put it away, put it aside. John Young would pursue his case for another five years. Finally, in 2005, a New Zealand court ruled that due to his own adoption he had no legal right to identify his natural father. A DNA test has never been carried out. I had lots of girlfriends. Lots of girlfriends. So, it could have been, but I don't know. Anyway, we got over it and all's well. Time heals a lot of things, doesn't it? Today, John and his family's fortune seem invincible. Its foundations lie in a multi-million dollar property portfolio built up over 40 years. This is our first building here. House of Merivale and Mr John. We bought the Angel in 1971 for $500,000. CBD, we bought it in 1992 for $3 million. Hello. Hi. And the keys to this private kingdom are now securely with Justin and his sister Bettina. I have a good feeling to pass everything on now rather after you've gone. Like her mother, Bettina looks after design while Justin drives the business as relentlessly as his father once did. He's moved the family enterprise from fashion to hospitality at an incredible pace. My interest was the business and the best for the family and I have outgrown my playboy, sort of, childhood. For people to think that I could run this business and be this party boy, it's just, it's madness. And it used to annoy me, it used to really annoy me and irritate me, especially when you meet people and they're like, 'Oh, I thought you just rocked up at, you know, eight o'clock and partied all night.' It's like, are you insane? You know, I work 18 hours a day, sometimes I do 20 hours in a day. But if the playboy image is consigned to history, the glamour lives on, bolder and brighter than ever. It's embodied in their latest $160 million development, a fantasy playground for Sydney's young and beautiful. The initial concept that Jus had come up with was that it was this great home in Palm Springs. It was almost like the movie, The Party. You know, you go to this great party and you can walk through all these different rooms and there's different things happening in each room. That was the feel that he wanted to create. We wanted to be the best. We want to present in the best way because it is a reflection of ourselves. And whenever they can, the family escapes to Justin's weekender. It's a brother-and-sister game. Oh, is that it? That's it. Oh, wow! It looks beautiful. Here you go, Jase, no chilli. Trust me. Mm! Away from the hype and the public persona, this growing tribe, including Bettina's two young children, is really not that much different from any other family. Can you grab me a water, Bettina? Of course. What we deal with is reality, and people who don't know us deal with perception. So I don't think you can confuse the two, and we don't confuse the two. And for the Hemmes clan, that reality may yet prove the great leveller. Hey! Oh, don't do that to Poppy. Don't hurt my poppy. I love my son more than anything else. For me to have him back again. My dad's diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone, which unfortunately is incurable. Come on, grab the ball, baby. Yes, well, it's very sad for us. Oh, look, see, there's one coming up now. But you've just got to do the best you can. He's having a good life. He's more loving, unbelievably more loving than he ever was. If he wasn't here tomorrow I wouldn't regret anything and I think that's a great way to live life, not to regret anything that you do. Well, as long as I die after 20 years, it's alright. I'm 78 now, that'll be 98. That will do me then. Closed Captions by CSI