Fairwater, the Double Bay home of Mary Fairfax
15 August 1922
|Died||17 September 2017
Double Bay, Australia
|Residence||Fairwater, Double Bay|
|Other names||Lady Fairfax|
|Education||Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney|
|Known for||wife of Sir Warwick Fairfax|
|Spouse(s)||Cedric Symonds (m. 1945–1958)
Sir Warwick Fairfax (m. 1959–1987)
|Awards||Order of the British Empire, Order of Australia (AC)|
Mary Fairfax, AC, OBE (formerly Symonds, born Marie Wein; 15 August 1922 – 17 September 2017) was a Polish-born Australian businesswoman and philanthropist. As the third wife of wealthy media proprietor Sir Warwick Fairfax, she became known as Lady Fairfax upon his knighthood in 1967. She inherited most of his vast fortune upon his death in January 1987, becoming one of Australia's richest women.
Marie Wein was born into a Jewish family in Warsaw, the daughter of Anna (née Szpiegelglass) and Kevin Wein, the son of a miller. She came to Australia with her parents in the late 1920s to escape European anti-Semitism. She attended the Presbyterian Ladies College, Sydney, where she won prizes for history and chemistry. She eventually came to own several Sydney dress shops. In 1945, Wein married solicitor Cedric Symonds, with whom she had one son, Garth. She began having an affair with Warwick Oswald Fairfax, a scion of the Fairfax family, in the late 1950s. She divorced her husband in 1958 and married Fairfax on 4 July 1959, the day after he divorced his second wife. She converted from Judaism to Catholicism before the wedding. They had three children: Warwick Jr., Anna and Charles.
After the death of her husband Sir Warwick in 1987, Fairfax continued to live in the family home, Fairwater, which had been owned by the Fairfax family since 1900. She moved to Manhattan, New York, in 1988, purchasing a penthouse apartment known as the "Chateau in the Sky", atop the Pierre Hotel, Fifth Avenue, for US$12 million. She sold the apartment in 1999 to financier Martin Zweig for $21.5 million and returned to Australia. The penthouse in Manhattan eventually became New York's most expensive penthouse and was put up for sale in 2013 for an asking price of US$125 million. However, after four years on the market, the property sold at a deep discount for $44 million to Howard Lutnick, the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald. At the time of Fairfax's purchase of the property, previous tenants had included John Paul Getty, Elizabeth Taylor, Yves Saint-Laurent and Mohamed al-Fayed.
Lady Fairfax died of natural causes at her family home on 17 September 2017.
Honours, wealth and philanthropy
In recognition of her service to the community, Fairfax was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1976. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1988, and upgraded to Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 2005, for "service to the community of wide ranging social and economic benefit through support and philanthropy for ongoing medical research initiatives, improved health care opportunities, nurturing artistic talent in young performers, and preservation of diverse cultural heritage".
Fairfax's personal wealth in 2012 was estimated by the BRW at A$418 million. Her assets include the residential land development, Harrington Park, near Camden in New South Wales. Harrington Park was the name of the cattle property once owned by Sir Warwick and Lady Fairfax.
Lady Fairfax was a chairman, founder and president of the Friends of The Australian Ballet and was the president of the Australian Opera Foundation during the 1970s. Her philanthropy includes gifts of A$750,000 to St Vincent's Foundation and A$250,000 to the Garvan Foundation in 2002 on the occasion of her eightieth birthday.
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- "Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney (P.L.C Sydney)". New South Wales. School Choice. Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2007.
- Pearce, Suzannah, ed. (17 November 2006). "FAIRFAX (Mary), Lady". Who's Who in Australia Live!. North Melbourne, Vic: Crown Content Pty Ltd.
- The lady who's still giving her all Lawson, Valerie The Sydney Morning Herald 15 August 2002 accessed 16 May 2012
- "Lady (Mary) Fairfax dies, aged 95". The Sydney Morning Herald. 18 September 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
- "Lady Mary Fairfax has died aged 95 at her Rose Bay mansion". The Daily Telegraph. 18 September 2017.
- "Fairwater - Full Lep Listing - Description In Further Comments". State Heritage Register. Government of New South Wales. 1999. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- The New York Times. 3 December 2006. Retrieved 24 September 2017..
- "Cantor Fitzgerald CEO buys iconic triplex at $81M discount". Pagesix.com. 3 August 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
- Anderson, Anna (10 April 2013). "Lady Fairfax's New York penthouse shoots for record". Domain. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- "Subscribe | theaustralian". Theaustralian.com.au. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
- The Order of the British Empire - Officer (Civil) (OBE(C)) entry for Fairfax, Mary, Canberra, Australia: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, https://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=1109273&showInd=true. Retrieved 26 September 2017, "In recognition of service to the ommunity"
- Member of the Order of Australia (AM) entry for Fairfax, Mary, Canberra, Australia: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, https://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=870198&showInd=true. Retrieved 26 September 2017, "In recognition of service to the community"
- Barden, David (18 September 2017). "Lady Mary Fairfax Dies Aged 95". Huffington Post. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
- Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) entry for Fairfax, Mary, Canberra, Australia: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, https://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=1057548&showInd=true. Retrieved 27 September 2017, "For service to the community of wide ranging social and economic benefit through support and philanthropy for ongoing medical research initiatives, improved health care opportunities, nurturing artistic talent in young performers, and preservation of diverse cultural heritage."
- Sadauskas, Andrew (13 May 2012). "The world's richest mothers". smartcompany.com.au. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Fairfax, James (1992), My regards to Broadway : a memoir, Angus & Robertson, ISBN 978-0-207-17669-2
- Lady Mary Fairfax (18 October 1973). "An interview with Lady Mary Fairfax (1973)". Splash (Interview: audio/transcript). Interviewed by unnamed interviewer. ABC Radio National. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Lawson, Valerie (15 August 2002). "The lady who's still giving her all at 80". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
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