Investment

Little known sixth-generation family investment dynasty bets on venture

There are few better examples of a successful family investment dynasty than the Darlings. Now a member of the six-generation reckons venture investing will provide for future generations. Given the family’s success in the past, few would bet against them.

Who are the Darlings? Well, if you don’t live in Australia and aren’t part of an exclusive investment world there, you’re unlikely to have heard of them. 

Darling was set up to connect Aussie investors with US-based tech investment opportunities

But they are among Australia’s wealthiest families and provide a great example of a family perpetuating their wealth over multiple generations through successful investing. Through all of this, the Darlings have remained virtually unknown in the process. 

The family’s wealth goes back to the late 19th century when the first generation of the Darling wealth creators became Australia’s biggest wheat exports. Succeeding generations invested in some of the country’s most successful companies. They were earlier investors in Broken Hill Proprietary Company, now the huge mining company BHP, and Elders, the country’s biggest agribusiness group.  

Today, the family are linked to Sydney-based Caledonia (Private) Investments and San Francisco-based venture capital investor Darling Ventures. 

Caledonia is one of Australia’s best performing boutique investment groups. It has nothing to do with its namesake in the UK, which is owned by the Cayzer family.

Caledonia went big on several digital businesses in the US, including Zillow, the online real estate group, one of the best-performing stocks since 2020. In the last few years, Caledonia has made its investors, which include some of Australia’s wealthiest families, stellar returns. 

Set up as a family office/hedge fund for the Darling family in 1992, Caledonia started to accept outside money six years later. In the last 20 years, the group, which also has an office in New York, has added nicely to the wealth of the Darling family and also minted its senior staff. Most notably, chairman and co-founded Mark Nelson, and co-CIOs, Will Vicars and Michael Messara. Vicars features on an Australian rich list with a fortune estimated at more than A$500 million. 

Caledonia has also helped to seed Darling Ventures, set up by Daniel Darling in San Francisco in 2013. Daniel is the great, great, great-grandson of John Darling, who set up John Darling and Son, the wheat company where the family’s wealth comes from. He is also one of two sons of Michael Darling, who, along with his cousin Ian, were Caledonia’s co-founders. 

Darling was set up to connect Aussie investors with US-based tech investment opportunities.

Among those investors are members of the billionaire Wilson family, who own Australia’s biggest bathroom- and plumbing-supplies chain, the Reece Group. Andrew Wilson, the third generation of his family’s wealth, sits on the board of Darling Ventures; he is also the managing director of his father’s Bruce Wilson’s family office, Wolf Capital. 

Now in its eighth year, Darling Ventures has felt confident enough to extend its funding universe to US investors, recently launching its first public fund. 

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