AUSTRALIA’S wool industry, his family, friends and business associates globally are mourning the passing yesterday of Steven Read, the chief executive officer of the nation’s oldest and largest exporter of wool, Michell Wool.
Mr Read reportedly died yesterday in South Australia, but no further details are available.
He had been CEO of Michell Wool since 2010, managing the buying, processing and marketing of Australian and other origin wools through processing plants in Australia, China and Italy.
In advice to the trade today, Michell Wool executive director David Michell said: “It is with deep sadness that I advise the passing of Steven Read who died suddenly on Thursday.”
“Steven made an invaluable contribution to Michell Wool over his many years with the company and to the wider industry both in Australia and abroad over the past four decades in the wool industry.
“He will be sorely missed by his friends, colleagues, and competitors alike,” Mr Michell said.
“Our condolences go out to Steven’s wife Danielle and his children (and) family during this time as they come to terms with his loss.
“We ask that you respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”
According to biographical details he presented as a board candidate for the 2021 Australian Wool Innovation election, Mr Read had a long-standing passion for the wool industry, commencing work with Michell Wool in the mid-1980s following several years as a jackaroo in the Riverina and Wimmera.
He gained his wool classing and technology certificates at the Melbourne College of Textiles, and after completing a cadetship with Michell Wool, became a wool trader, with hands-on involvement in early-stage wool processing and managing spinner clients.
Mr Read worked for American agri-giant Cargill for two years in wool processing and sales in Europe, returning to a management role with Michell in 1990, overseeing trading, manufacturing, and international sales. He completed an executive MBA and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Mr Read also worked with Elders as a general manager in wool, progressing to the group general manager of international trading role and overseeing a turnover of $680 million while sitting on a range of boards in Australia, Europe and Asia.
Following his role at Elders, Mr Read was instrumental in diversifying the rural services division of ABB (Viterra), to provide a comprehensive range of agri-services to regional Australia and export of agricultural products.
A supporter of Mr Read’s AWI board candidacy, NSW grower Robert Ingram, said Mr Read’s passing represented an enormous loss to the industry.
Mr Ingram said “His work in reinvigorating early stage processing in Australia, with the PALM scheme, wool classer training, his love for the industry and years with Elders
“He still had a lot to contribute to the wool industry.”
Australian Wool Innovation director and wool broker Don Macdonald said the news was a great shock and very sad.
“The wool industry has lost one of the true believers.”
Mr Field said Mr Read had a wonderful knowledge of the industry and was a good communicator.
“The industry really can’t afford to lose people of his calibre, people with that in-depth processing knowledge and ability to be able to present that at a conference or meeting.
“He was a very good bloke and he and I developed an excellent relationship,” he said.
“He was a hell of a nice bloke and the industry is going to be greatly diminished by his passing.”
Mr Read unsuccessfully stood for the Australian Wool Innovation board in 2021 on the Read-Field-Macdonald ticket. He listed his key issues as ensuring a growing and profitable Australian wool industry through sustainability, diversification of demand to create more competition, reducing sovereign risk and innovation in processing to reduce the cost of taking wool fibre to fabric. With NSW wool grower Michael Field, Mr Read campaigned to improve corporate governance at AWI, implement all 82 recommendations of the 2018 EY report and for AWI to work more closely with the Federal Government, other research and development organisations, wool industry bodies and domestic and international wool customers. Mr Read served as the president of the Australian Council of Wool Exporters in 2003.
My condolences to Steven’s family and his colleagues at Michell Wool. Terrible news for a young man. Everyone will reflect on and appreciate his confidence in them.
Steven was a busy man, but he was generous with his time and you couldn’t help but get wrapped up in his energy and enthusiasm for his business and the industry. He was very knowledgeable, but had the true gift of being able to explain his thoughts and ideas in a simple manner. I hope in a small way we can help to carry on his Legacy. Vale Steven Read
It is with great sadness that I was advised of Steven‘s sudden passing. My sincere condolence go to Danni and the children. May our heavenly father give them the strength to go through this difficult time.
While I only recently met Steven, I was immediately struck by his patience, passion and kindness – far beyond what is expected in a normal business meeting. He took the time to explain his vision and approach in such detail and with such grace. I recall him also speaking with such pride about his children. Vale Steven.
I have known Steve for 40 years and worked with him on three occasions. I have lost a real friend and wool colleague. It was only a month ago we were having lunch, family was always the start of every meeting, discussing our kids and family before we got down to the “tin tacks” of business.
As busy as he was he always had time for his friends. My heart goes out to his family.
I had the pleasure of sitting beside Steven Read at the recent Wool Week luncheon in Melbourne. Our paths have crossed over the years and we were able to “chew the fat” as you do at such luncheons. Steven was a man of impeccable integrity with a wealth of knowledge. One of the “greats” who have solidly contributed to our industry’s rich heritage. Our industry cannot afford the loss of people like Steyen.
Our condolences go to all his family and friends.