Vale: Robin Crawford
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Vale: Robin Crawford

by Jason Roberts

October 19, 2018

In a statement published this afternoon, Goodstart Early Learning expressed their profound sadness at the passing of Robin Crawford, the founding Chair of Goodstart Early Learning.


The statement noted “His energy, passion and incredible personal commitment and generosity were at the beating heart of taking the improbable idea of acquiring the country’s largest bankrupted for-profit childcare company, and turning it into a not-for-profit social enterprise dedicated to giving Australia’s children the best possible start in life.”


Mr Crawford originally trained as a lawyer before moving into investment banking. He joined Hill Samuel Australia before becoming one of the founders of Macquarie Bank.


After working in the legal and banking sectors for two decades he moved away from for-profit pursuits towards not-for-profit.


Over this period he was instrumental in the founding of not just Goodstart but also the Lifehouse at RPA – The Chris O’Brien Cancer Centre; The Centre for Social Impact at the University of NSW; IVF Australia Pty Ltd; and, SANE Australia, formally the Schizophrenia Australia Foundation.


He was also a Board Member at the Clean Up Australia Foundation, Chair at Leadership Council Social Ventures, and a supporter of the Autistic Children’s Association, Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, Career Trackers, STREAT, and the Beacon Foundation.


Mr Crawford was recognised for his service to the community in 2106 when he was awarded the Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia.


His involvement in the establishment of Goodstart is legend as Adele Horin wrote in her comprehensive piece, It takes more than just a village to save the kids, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 May 2010.


As Ms Horin’s article explains, under the driving force of Evan Thornley, the internet billionaire who was a sitting politician at the time – an improbable consortium of major charities, dealmakers and financiers pulled together to launch a bid for the remnants of ABC that ultimately would become Goodstart.


Mr Crawford was approached early in the piece by Mr Thornley and was active throughout, ultimately taking the Chairperson’s position once the deal was complete.


His extensive reputation and connections lent themselves to the tricky task of convincing investors and banks to back the deal with their hard-earned dollars.


In the end, as the Ms Horin notes in her article: “Eventually 40 social investors came on board, including those investing $100,000 or so to bring the social investment component of the deal to $22.5 million,” with Mr Crawford himself contributing $5 million of his own money.


But it was Mr Crawford’s connections with the National Bank of Australia that ultimately sealed the financing puzzle for the consortium as they agreed to provide $120 million in loans and guarantees on top of the commitments already received, and his nerves of steel that came to the fore when he refused to budge after the receiver’s advisers allegedly implied that the consortium bid was too low.


As Ms Horin states “Crawford responded in an email that a high purchase price and high debt servicing costs would reduce the surplus for investment in quality: ”If we are outbid, so be it.””


They were not outbid. The consortium was successful and Goodstart Early Learning was born.


Mr Crawford served as Chair from 2009 to 2014.

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