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Myer, Sidney (Simcha) Baevski

MYER, SIDNEY (Simcha) BAEVSKI (1878–1934), Australian retailer and philanthropist. Myer was born in Poland and in 1897 he migrated to Australia. After working briefly at odd jobs in Melbourne, he opened a shop in Bendigo in partnership with his brother, Elkan B. Myer. This venture failed, but later Myer bought another shop in Bendigo, and this time his business expanded rapidly. In 1911 Myer purchased a store in Melbourne which he called the Myer Emporium and which became the largest business of its kind in Australia. He had also obtained control of Marshall's of Adelaide, another large department store. In the early 1930s Myer had 5,300 employees working for him in his enterprises. He provided rest houses for his workers at the seaside and in the country. The Myer Emporium is still one of the largest and most successful retailers in Australia, and its flagship store in central Melbourne is probably the leading department store on the continent.

In 1920 Myer divorced his Jewish wife and married an 18-year-old girl, Marjorie Merlyn Baillieu, the daughter of a prominent gentile financier in Melbourne. The marriage caused a scandal, and Myer and his wife were forced to live in America for nine years. To placate his wife's family, Myer converted to Anglicanism and distanced himself from the Jewish community. Ironically, two of his sons were allegedly black-balled from membership in the exclusive Melbourne Club on antisemitic grounds.

Sidney Myer was one of Australia's richest men when he died. In addition to his many contributions to Jewish and general charities, Myer donated large sums for unemployment relief during the depression of the 1930s. He left sizable endowments for the promotion of free orchestral concerts and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and an additional large sum for the general purposes of the University of Melbourne.


J. Browning and L. Critchley, Dynasties (2002), 131–67; A. Pratt, Sidney Myer: A Biography (1993); H.L. Rubinstein, Jews in Australia, II, 321–22, index.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.