The secret Sydney life of Donald Trump jr’s wheeler dealer Rob Goldstone


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He’s been described in the US press as the British “publicist” who organised a meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump jnr and a Russian lawyer offering “dirt” on rival Hillary Clinton during the presidential election campaign.

But Rob Goldstone is much more than that for anyone who can remember him during his years in the late 1980s when he called Sydney home.

Modern day aristocracy is not all Downton Abbey

Private Sydney: Luke and Julie Montagu, the Viscount and Viscountess of Hinchingbrooke arrive down under, the country their ancestors helped to discover.

Back then, he was a rock ‘n’ roll reporter for AAP, claiming Michael Jackson had asked him to go on tour with him when he came to Australia, before launching his first public relations firm in Sydney called Crawford Goldstone Publicity.

At the time, he spruiked he was John Denver’s PR guy, though those in the game to whom PS spoke this week question claims he also looked after U2 and Julio Iglesias when they came Down Under.

Donald Trump jnr was interviewed on Fox News regarding the meeting.

Donald Trump jnr was interviewed on Fox News regarding the meeting. Photo: AP

Goldstone also managed to make an appearances in the pages of the Herald in 1989, in a feature about modern deadly sins, for which he was representing “gluttony”.

He had earned some infamy in 1984 when he went to Ethiopia for the Band Aid rock concert for famine and managed to put on more than three kilograms.

In 2013, music publicist Rob Goldstone attended the preliminary Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, Russia. The pageant was owned by Donald Trump snr at the time.

In June 2016, Rob Goldstone orchestrated a meeting between Donald jnr, President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Photo: AP

“We were staying at the Hilton,” he was quoted in the Herald. “Once you do your bit, I mean, what else is there to do in a country like Ethiopia but eat?”

He also claimed his work in Australia led to him gaining about 25 kilograms: “It’s the lifestyle –it lends itself to being a glutton. When you’re working in publicity, people are always saying ‘Come on, darling. Let’s do dinner or let’s do lunch’.”

In June 2016, Goldstone orchestrated a meeting between Donald jnr, President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

According to The New York Times, Goldstone emailed Trump jnr promising “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia”. The info was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin”, Goldstone wrote. Aras and Emin Agalarov are a Russian billionaire and his aspiring pop star son, whose career Goldstone managed.

It’s a wrap for this aristocrat and lady who lunches

To their friends they are simply Luke and Julie Montagu, a likeable, professional couple from London in Australia for a working holiday with their young family doing the usual stuff: snorkelling on the reef and catching the sights of Sydney.

Oh, and American born and raised Julie is something of a yoga and wellness celebrity in her adopted Britain. She’s also here promoting a new range of gluten-free wraps called BFree..

Luke Montagu, Earl of Sandwich and his wife Julie Montagu in Sydney. Thursday 20th July 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH PS 170720

Luke Montagu, Earl of Sandwich and his wife Julie. Photo: James Brickwood

So, not much to report? Well, not quite.

They are also British aristocracy, the Viscount and Viscountess Hinchingbrooke, a centuries’ old hereditary title which will one day see Luke Montagu become the 12th Earl of Sandwich. Julie will then be the Countess of Sandwich.

They also have one of England’s most celebrated manors and private gardens, Mapperton, as their country weekender in Dorset.

The couple's country weekender in Dorset.

The couple’s country weekender in Dorset. Photo: Andrew Wood

The Earl of Sandwich is a title with deep connections to modern Australia. It was the 4th Earl of Sandwich who signed off on the finances for Captain Cook to acquire the Endeavour for his voyages of discovery.

He also invented the humble sandwich, hence Julie’s new gig selling wraps.

A working aristo? How novel?

“Firstly, I’m 100 per cent American. I grew up being told you work hard and you can be whatever you want to be, so my life is nothing to do really with the aristocracy. I’m still the same girl from Illinois. I have always been passionate about yoga and wellness, so this was a natural thing for me to sign up for,” the Viscountess told PS, adding that she has also appeared in three seasons of British reality television series The Ladies Of London, a posh version of the Real Housewives franchise featuring women with grand titles.

“We had to pay for the school fees,” jokes the Viscount when talking about his wife becoming a television star.

“Most modern aristocrats have to work. This is not an era in which people with titles can be men and women of leisure. There is a lot to do. Houses to upkeep, gardens to maintain, roofs that need fixing. Trust me, it is a fairly constant struggle just to keep the rain out. So we have all got to work.”

A firm believer in meritocracy, the Viscount agrees he had some challenges coming to terms with the relevance of a title “handed on a plate” in today’s world, though he is clearly passionate about the family history.

Indeed it’s not every tourist who can draw the family crest in the sands of Hinchinbrook Island, as the Montagu’s did earlier this week, to honour their ancestor for whom the beautiful Queensland national park was named.

James Fairfax’s stunning Retford Park to welcome public

If ever there was a true Gentleman’s Estate, it would have to be the magnificent, sprawling home of the late James Fairfax, who departed this mortal coil in January but left one of the most extraordinary gifts to the people of Australia one could imagine: Bowral’s gob-smackingly beautiful Retford Park.

In August the National Trust will finally take control of the meticulously maintained estate, complete with its extraordinary gardens and vestiges from a lifetime of collecting some of the finest artworks and objet d’art in the world.

Retford Park, Bowral, home of James Fairfax.

‘It is absolutely magnificent, from the home, the gardens, the artworks … there is nothing quite like it in Australia’: National Trust’s Richard Slink. Photo: Robin Powell

The National Trust is currently in the process of lodging a development application with the local Wingecarribee Shire Council with hopes the estate could be opened to the public within a year.

Sitting pride of place in the home will be a stunning painting of Retford Park’s garden by the artist Colin Lancely, commissioned by Fairfax and exhibited in the 1985 Biennale. It is considered by some to be a true modern Australian masterpiece.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Retford Park, Bowral, home of James Fairfax bequeathed?to the National Trust.

Fairfax’s home at Retford Park, Bowral, has been bequeathed to the National Trust and could open to the public next year. Photo: Robin Powell

“It is absolutely magnificent, from the home, the gardens, the artworks … there is nothing quite like it in Australia and soon it will be open to the public to share,” National Trust director of properties Richard Slink told PS.

It will be a fitting legacy for Fairfax, being a scion of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the country.

James Fairfax at his Woollahra home.

James Fairfax was a man of refined taste who eschewed the limelight, preferring to spend his time with artists and raconteurs. Photo: Robert Pearce

Oxford-educated, he spent 32 years with Fairfax (publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald), including a decade as its chairman between 1977 and 1987.

Upon his death in January, aged 83, those who had worked with him recalled his selfless attitude when it came to the pursuit of free press.

Mike Carlton recalled the Liberals in NSW once threatened to expose Fairfax as gay, to prevent a story they didn’t like. “He told his editors to publish anyway,” Carlton recalled.

He also took on powerful enemies, not in the least rival media giant Kerry Packer over the so-called Goanna allegations.

But away from the cut and thrust of running a media dynasty, Fairfax was a man of refined taste who eschewed the limelight, preferring to spend his time with artists and raconteurs, including the likes of retailing scion Charles Lloyd Jones and artists Sidney Nolan and Donald Friend.

But before the doors of Retford Park are flung open to the great unwashed, a large collection of Fairfax’s most prized pieces are going on sale.

On August 30 a collection, worth at least $6 million, of artworks by the likes of Arthur Streeton and Eugene von Guerard is be auctioned by Deutscher and Hacket at the Cell Block Theatre in Darlinghurst.

It will be followed by an auction of precious pieces, ranging from stunning lacquered Japanese stools to a silver and gold cigarette box presented by Queen Elizabeth II. The auction will take place at Leonard Joel on August 31 and September 1 in Queen Street, Woollahra.

Conservatively estimated to realise more than $7 million, the proceeds from both the auctions will go to the The James Fairfax Foundation, which will provide income to help support charities including the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, the Children’s Medical Research Foundation and WWF.

And all this follows Fairfax’s gifts of Old Masters to the Art Gallery of New South Wales over many years that established the James Fairfax Galleries, named in his honour.

Remembering celebrity fancy dress for the grand Cointreau Ball

In the years before we had to endure Instagram selfies from the Amalfi Coast, mid-winter was one of the hottest times on the Sydney social calendar.

For an epic 14-year run, Bastille Day would be marked in Sydney with the grandest party of them all, the Cointreau Ball, the ultimate celebration of the heady ’80s and ’90s.


Nell Schofield chose a cocktail commando outfit for one of the Cointreau Balls, which was Sydney’s grandest party during the ’80s and ’90s.

On par with today’s Met Ball in New York, and dressed up as a promotion for the French liqueur, it was really more of a licence for a boozy knees up, where titled socialites would disappear under dinner tables and get up to all sorts of a mischief before dessert had even arrived.

COINTREAU BALL . SUN-HERALD . 9800710 . PIC BY VIRGINIA STAR . Saved In News . 980712 . Pic Of Joh Bailey Arriving At The Cointreau Ball .

Hairdresser Joh Bailey makes a grand entrance at the Cointreau Ball .. Photo: Virginia Star

Remember, this was an era when such things were rejoiced rather than frowned upon, indeed society was less stitched up.

Today’s PS Spotlight shines back on those days of unbridled hedonism, when 400 or so of this town’s most glamorous citizens would converge on a secret location in a fleet of limos to indulge in an all-night event (one went for 48 hours) of bacchanalian delights, a sort of Mardi Gras at the Ritz, which Sydney has not seen since the last Cointreau Ball was held in 1999.

COINTREAU BALL . SUN-HERALD . 980710 . PIC BY VIRGINIA STAR . Saved In News . 980712 . Pic Of Kerri Anne Kennerly & Her Husband John At The Cointreau Ball .

Television host Kerri-Anne Kennerley and husband John got dressed up as the Queen and King of Hearts. Photo: Virginia Star

And yes, a much younger PS managed to get along to a few Cointreau Balls, and while some of the memories are admittedly a little hazy, a few are indelible.

Like the year Sheila Scotter, the grand dame of Australian society who retained an imperial air about herself well into her dotage and was the founding editrix of Vogue Australia in 1962, turned up dressed as Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia. It was a fitting costume as she sailed into the room.

COINTREAU BALL . SUN-HERALD . 980710 . PIC BY VIRGINIA STAR . Saved In News . 980712 . Pic Of Charlotte Dawson & Scott Miller At The Cointreau Ball .

Charlotte Dawson and Scott Miller were the hottest “it” couple in town when they came to the ball.. Photo: Virginia Star

Society set hairdresser Joh Bailey was dressed as a living Academy Award one year, his hairless body (thanks to a painful wax session) entirely covered in gold paint that also camouflaged his goosebumps. Bailey was pulled around the exclusive party on a specially made podium on wheels, towed by a glamorous Oscars “presenter” carrying a huge envelope emblazoned with the words: “And the winner is …”

Another year Joh descended a grand staircase in a huge showgirl-inspired number replete with ostrich feathers and giant peacock fan tail behind him with the wingspan of a small private jet. The feathers didn’t last though, after working the dance floor, Joh’s crumpled plumage was a shadow of its former self by night’s end, a sight that would have him in rehab according to today’s petty puritans.

SOCIAL SUN HERALD DIARY 990716 COINTREAU BALL.Pic shows Larry Emdur with Skye Bonner, Yosette Smeele and Carolyn Kirby***FDCTRANSFER***

Game show host Larry Emdur channelled Hugh Hefner, turning up with a bevy of his New Price Is Right models to finish off the look.

The brainchild of public relations dynamo Deeta Colvin, the Cointreau Ball was the first event in the country to bring dodgem cars and ice rinks into parties. Each year outrageous themes were thoroughly embraced by the party set who turned it into the ultimate costume party, the result of months of meticulous planning.

Though there were the occasional hiccups, like the time Colvin’s venue, a film studio, fell through at the 11th hour and she had to move the party to the sand dunes of Kurnell, giving it a sandcastle theme. Rebel Penfold Russell turned up on a Bobcat.

COINTREAU BALL . SUN-HERALD . 980710 . PIC BY VIRGINIA STAR . Saved In News . 980712 . Pic Of Leo Schofield & Julie Gipps (Glen & Glenda) At The Cointreau Ball .

Leo Schofield and Julie Gipps (Glen and Glenda) show off their outfits Photo: Virginia Star

And what a guest list. Before he ended up in jail for dealing cocaine, Gough Whitlam’s self-proclaimed “adopted” grandson (although the Whitlam’s disowned him years ago) Andrew “Baci” Whitlam turned up to one Hollywood-themed Cointreau Ball as Liz Taylor, but there was no room in the limo for the wheelchair he planned to take with him.

A newly single Johanna Griggs arrived dressed as Marilyn Monroe, aspiring party girl and magazine wunderkind Mia Freedman dressed up as a roller girl (complete with skates), while newlyweds Charlotte Dawson and Scott Miller were the hottest “it” couple in town. They truly looked happy together.

Of course the Cointreau Ball generated its own controversies, too. In its later years one scribe penned it had lost its cutting edge: “a predictable mishmash that’s become a self-regarding outing for B-grade celebrities who look like they’ve been dressed by Helen Keller and Ray Charles.” He was never invited again.

That was also the year when some of Sydney’s socialites had been bumped from the guest list in favour of soap stars, leading another columnist to declare it was “more E Street than Queen Street”.

But that didn’t stop Leo Schofield from turning up in what looked like a creation from a Venetian masked ball. His daughter Nell went for a cocktail commando number.

Hot fashion designer of the day Leona Edmiston wore a body suit that was covered, top to toe, in glittering sequins. Game show host Larry Emdur channelled Hugh Hefner, turning up with a bevy of his New Price Is Right models to finish off the look.

And who could forget television host Kerri-Anne Kennerley and husband John when they came as the Queen and King of Hearts? Indeed, the photos haunted KAK for years to follow.

Today we now look back and smile and remember what a swell party it was.

Superyacht too big to show off

Aussie John Symond will have plenty of room to host his guests in a few weeks’ time when he launches his new $100 million 73-metre superyacht Hasna in Monte Carlo.

Builder Feadship has been beavering away on the mighty tinnie for years. “The story of this Feadship very much revolves around the journey of the client and his family,” says Feadship director Jan-Bart Verkuyl.

FEADSHIP SUPERYACHT HASNA LAUNCHED FOR AUSTRALIAN OWNER Aussie John Symond's new superyacht - launched overnight?credit Feadship?

Aussie John Symond’s new superyacht. Photo: Feadship

“He was the first owner to give a speech at the start of the build to the entire workforce, sharing his life story and why this Feadship would be so important to him and his family. They were very involved in the build. The owner also flew his friends halfway around the world to share the fun of the construction process with them on several occasions.”

With a new bride and an even larger brood now in tow, it’s a good thing Symond went big with the boat, which includes such features as its own “beach club”, a gym, a deep swimming pool on the main deck with its own waterfall, a cinema, and a bar which runs from inside the saloon to the exterior aft deck, featuring a sliding champagne bucket (just the thing for rough seas).

However PS hears it will probably never make it to Sydney Harbour, apparently Aussie John doesn’t want to “show off”.

A question of Dion’s style

Recently PS applauded Sydney-raised haute couture designer Tamara Ralph and her Australian partner Michael Russo on their success at the most recent shows in Paris.

But then we saw Celine Dion wearing their Ralph & Russo designs, looking like Jude Law’s body double from The Young Pope. 

Dion has been celebrated in the fashion press lately as something of a renaissance woman when it comes to her fashions. PS is unconvinced. You be the judge.

Celine Dion in Paris wearing Ralph & Russo for PS - pic supplied

Celine Dion in Paris wearing Ralph & Russo. Photo: supplied

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