Andrew and Nicola Forrest have purchased iconic Australian hatmaker Akubra, a company that continues to manufacture its handmade products in Kempsey, New South Wales.

The acquisition, by the Forrests’ private investment group Tattarang, will secure Akubra’s Australian ownership and local production capabilities. 

Akubra is the latest acquisition for Tattarang in the retail sector, following its high-profile purchase of bootmaker R.M.Williams in 2020 and investment in Camilla this year. 

Akubra has been owned and operated continuously by five generations of the Keir family and traces its history back 147 years.

Manufacturing at its purpose-built workshop in Kempsey since 1972, Akubra is a significant employer for the region with about 120 team members.

“We are humbled to be entrusted with a company which is so important to Australia’s national identity,” Dr Andrew Forrest said.

“Tattarang invests to ensure companies like Akubra remain Australian owned and we’re proud to be able to ensure the growth of Australian manufacturing, both protecting and creating new jobs, particularly in our regions.”

Nicola Forrest said she was committed to protecting and enhancing the company’s legacy.

“Growing up in regional New South Wales, my parents taught me lifelong lessons about hard work and resilience. The image of my father’s tireless energy and perseverance, measured by the sweat on his Akubra, remains etched in my memory,” Nicola Forrest said.

“An Akubra has always been part of my life, and as a new custodian, I am excited to help new generations discover this treasured Australian icon.”

Outgoing chairman of the Akubra board Stephen Keir IV said the family had chosen to sell to Tattarang because they wanted to entrust the company to custodians who would protect and invest in the company.

“We thought long and hard about selling the business after five generations of family ownership and after we saw how the Forrests have invested in local manufacturing with R.M.Williams we decided they were the right custodians for Akubra,” Keir said.

Established in Hobart in 1876, Stephen Keir I joined the company in 1904. Akubra has produced headwear for Australian Olympic teams, delivered more than two million hats to the Australian Armed Forces and featured in classic films.

The manufacturing process takes six weeks and 162 steps, with each hat handled 200 times and passing through 60 pairs of hands.

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