Mining magnate brings iconic outback boot brand home to Australia

RM Williams, maker of the iconic Australian outback boot, is returning to its roots after mining tycoon Andrew Forrest bought the brand from a Louis Vuitton-backed equity firm, he announced Monday.

Founded in 1932 by bushman Reginald Murray Williams, the outfitter became one of Australia's best known brands, most famous for the hand-crafted ankle-high boots worn by ranch hands, business executives and fashionistas alike.

Control of the company was acquired in 2010 by an equity fund sponsored by global luxury company LVMH, though some Australians, including actor Hugh Jackman, were investment partners.

Forrest took control of the firm, which has 900 Australia-based staff, through an investment company he jointly owns with his wife Nicola.  

"Nicola and I are incredibly proud and humbled to be able to bring RM Williams back under Australian ownership," he said in a statement, calling the outfitter "a quintessential Aussie brand with a long and proud history of high-quality Australian craftsmanship."

Forrest, founder, and chairman of mining giant Fortescue Metals, said he had been wearing "RMs" since his days as a "jackaroo" ranch hand in remote Western Australia.

"To wear RMs is to wear the boots of the countless hard-working Australians that have come before us," he said.

RM Williams' son Mike said his father would be pleased to see the company fully back in Australian hands.

He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the company had lost touch with its Aussie roots as LVMH sought to attract a more global urban market.

"To make jeans which were tight-legged and to see models with their boot cuffs rolled up as they did in Europe ... wasn't in keeping with their history and who they were," he said. – Rappler.com